The Fell Charter School in Simpson is helping students keep on top of their computer skills in a fun, new way. The 2018-2019 school year marks the first time the school has hosted a Coding Club for students in grades six through eight. This year, six students participated in the club at Fell Charter School.

The Coding Club adheres to the guidelines established by the Cyber Robotics Coding Competition (CRCC). According to the organization’s website, CRCC is an innovative robotics tournament that excites and engages students in coding. Schools can compete and involve students through gaming and through competition in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) areas, computer coding, and tech literacy.

The CRCC program is cloud-based, so it can be accessed from any computer, enabling schools across the Commonwealth to participate in competitions using exactly the same learning and preparation materials. Students participating in the club learn to use simulations of virtual 3D robots that perform complex tasks and missions.

By learning to program their robot and through planning and strategizing to prepare the virtual robot to participate, students are able compete within their class, grade, school, and district to win progressive stages leading up to the state finals in Harrisburg. Of the 140 teams that participated at districts, Fell Charter placed seventeenth.

Teachers Sabrina Wagner and Jamie Seymour served as advisors to the Coding Club. According to Mrs. Wagner, “The first year was a little scary” because both the advisors and the students were learning how the process and competitions work.

Despite it being their first year, the Fell Charter School team was proud to make it to the state finals in Harrisburg, and although they didn’t win there, the experience was a positive one. It also provided participating students and their advisors the experience necessary to aim for a win when next year’s competition rolls around.

Members of the Coding Club had many positive things to say about their participation. Sixth grader Thomas Nally explained the format of the club’s tasks during club meetings. He said, “In Coding Club, we programmed a virtual robot to move around and collect power cells to enhance our score. We had to make it to the end of the mission by hitting the bullseye.”

“How we prepared is that we would study our codes so we could get into the different stages of competition. There were five missions to be completed for the qualifying rounds,” explained seventh grade student, Erika Hollis.

Mason Duplessis, grade eight, continued, “We started out with Boot Camp. There were eighty or more Boot Camp missions training us to learn. After we completed Boot Camp, we moved to Qualifiers and had to successfully complete five missions to go to Harrisburg.”

Eighth grader Alice Davis acknowledged that the competition was not exactly a piece of cake for the Fell Charter Students. “When it came to the actual finals of the whole CRCC competition, it was a little stressful because we to keep our cool because there were forty teams there,” she explained.

However, it was overall a positive experience for the participating students. “I learned a lot of things, like how to maneuver robotics and other stuff. In the finals, the learning helped me a lot because we had to do everything from memory, so we had to really study. It was an awesome experience to go there,” remarked seventh grader Bruce Kohut.

For the final competition, each participating school was able to enter a team consisting of two students. Alice Davis and Brice Kohut represented Fell Charter School, while the other club members, the club’s advisors, and school principal Mary Jo Walsh accompanied them to Harrisburg to cheer the duo on.