College holds creative game programming workshop for PEPP students

The Flemming Creativity Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center at Penn State Berks will hold its third Creative Game Programing Workshop for Reading School District middle school students who are enrolled in the Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dec. 20, in the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building. 

This program will bring 24 PEPP students to Penn State Berks for the day with the goal of exposing them to computational thinking and sparking an interest in computing careers, particularly among female students. According to Sadan Kulturel, director of the Flemming CEED Center, underrepresentation of women and minorities has been an important concern in computing related fields. Currently, females represent less than 18 percent of undergraduates attending computer science and information technology programs. 

Abdullah Konak, instructor and co-organizer of the program, stated, “We are aiming not only to promote computer science to middle school girls but also to demonstrate that computer programming is a foundational skill for many other careers.”

In the morning session, students will explore computational thinking concepts (sequence, loops, events, logic, operators, data); computer science practices (working iteratively and incrementally, testing, and debugging); and program design. In the afternoon session, students will complete a project by designing a simple game using the Scratch programming language, which is designed by the MIT Media Lab especially for students ages 8 to 16. Scratch has an intuitive interface and allows students to create computer programs and animations by assembling Lego-style blocks together. 

Collaborating with PEPP, the Flemming CEED Center has organized this workshop every semester since Fall 2015.  “Students show tremendous interest in this workshop, and we are always amazed with how much they can learn and achieve within a day,” stated Kulturel. In the future, the Flemming CEED Center is planning to expand the program and make it available to additional school districts.

Kulturel adds that they collect data about students’ perceptions regarding information technology related careers, and the data indicates that the students have a more favorable impression of these careers after completing the workshop.

The Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP) is an early-intervention collaboration between Penn State Berks and the Reading School District. The mission of the program is to enhance academic preparedness and motivation levels in its Reading School District participants to pursue higher education.

PEPP also recruits and trains students from Penn State Berks, most of whom are Childhood and Early Education majors, to act as PEPP Learning Assistants (PLAs). In this role, the Penn State Berks students serve as tutors and mentors, and are positive role models who lead and inspire the PEPP students. The PLAs must present a lesson plan in addition to tutoring, mentoring, helping with homework, planning and coordinating PEPP student ideas and projects, and learning about classroom management in a diverse urban school environment.

For more information about PEPP, contact Guadalupe Kasper, PEPP program coordinator, at 610-396-6272 or via email at [email protected].

For more information on the workshop or the Flemming CEED Center, contact Kulturel at 610-396-6137 or via email at [email protected]