When the pandemic shut schools down, Hutchinson Technical High School needed a way to continue building its students’ coding and robotics skills remotely.
Hutch Tech qualified for the Amazon Future Engineer Title 1 Grant and had the CoderZ licenses for Cyber Robotics 101 and 102 curricula it needed within just a few days.
The school now has a robust, online coding and robotics curriculum that helps students learn the skills they need to succeed in the technical workforce.
Founded in 1904, Hutchinson Technical High School in Buffalo, NY is an engineering high school that offers predefined paths and tracks (e.g., chemistry, English, computer science, etc.). Referred to as Hutch Tech, students choose their majors and then engage in four years of rigorous coursework within those areas.
“Our students don’t just graduate with a high school diploma,” said Kelvin Hux, CTE Technology Teacher, “they get a full Hutch Tech experience.” From his vantage point as a former software training and network technician, Hux introduces students to some of the realities of working in IT and helps prepare them for success in the workplace.
“When students get out into the workforce or into college without skills it drives me crazy,” said Hux, who uses project-based learning to help turn that tide and get youngsters to think past just “getting a good grade” on a test.
When Hutch Tech’s school district shut down during the pandemic, Hux looked for a way to keep kids engaged with hands-on learning even though they weren’t on campus. He learned about CoderZ’s League and the Amazon Future Engineer Title 1 Grant scholarship opportunity (which would fund the school’s investment in the online STEM and robotics programming platform).
After qualifying for the scholarship, Hutch Tech received its licenses for two different curricula, Cyber Robotics 101 and 102, within just a few days. Hux liked that the program only required an Internet connection—no physical robots necessary—and how well the curriculum was organized and aligned with his own goals as a teacher.
“All my students had to do was log into a browser and start working; it solved a lot of problems at a time when we didn’t have textbooks, hardware, computers or even a physical room to work in,” said Hux, who also likes the coding platform’s collaborative nature. “Using Microsoft Teams, we share screens and solutions. It was a great way to pull students back into the learning environment.”
Today, CoderZ’s platform plays a key role in Hutch Tech’s curriculum. It not only provides a hands-on coding and programming platform, but it also helps students develop their critical thinking and collaborative skills—both of which Hux knows to be vital in the modern workforce.
“You may be able to Google your way to a high paying job, but can you really stay relevant skills -wise? This is an important question that anyone going into an IT career needs to ask themselves,” said Hux, who is continually pushing students to think about “what’s next?” both educationally and terms of their coding, robotics, STEM and overall computer science skills.
Going a step further, Hutch Tech has developed partnerships with companies and organizations that are involved with robotics, coding and technology. These organizations give students an up-close look at what it means to work for these types of companies, and also how to apply their coding skills in a variety of settings (e.g., healthcare, logistics, distribution, etc.).
“Games are one thing,” said Hux, “but I also want to connect students with what it’s really like to be a software developer or other type of IT professional. As educators, we have to find things that are relevant so that students have applicable, updated skills to put on their resumés.”
Each new school year brings a new crop of promising students to Hutch Tech, where Hux doesn’t always have a good gauge on those youngsters’ current skill and knowledge levels. Because CoderZ provides a structured curricula for students in grades 4 through 12 meant to, he can fairly quickly determine where the students are and where they need to be.
Then, the platform plots a chart for success—based on “missions” that they accomplish one by one—as the kids move down their respective paths. And because the platform is collaborative, even those who are hesitant about diving into the challenges can see how others are doing it and follow suit.
“Once they see how the older students move through the maze, they see how much fun it is and want to get into it,” said Hux. “The CoderZ platform changes their demeanors and gives them the confidence to do it. It takes the hesitancy out of it trying something new.”
Reflecting on his school’s decision to implement the CoderZ STEM platform, Hux said the experience has been “extremely gratifying,” and that several students completed their senior projects using advanced-level coding like Scratch and Python. “They’ve been able to apply their programmatic thinking and skills to other areas.”
With CoderZ in his corner, Hux has one more tool that he can use to successfully introduce students to the realities of the IT workforce and prepare them for success in it—both in terms of skill-building and team collaboration.
“I don’t want my students to go to an employer and have to be trained on how to collaborate, work together or solve problems as a team,” he explains. “With CoderZ, we have the safe online environment we need for building confidence and preparing students for career success.”
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