Students at F.E. Bellows Elementary School – who have been learning basic computer programming – recently participated in a hands-on activity that helped them understand the connection between coding and an algorithm, which is the sequence of commands that instruct a computer.

Through the Code Creators workshop, which is part of the school’s expanded Seekers and Solvers STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) curriculum, the students engaged in collaborative teamwork to solve a problem. Paired in groups, one student was assigned to be the robot while the other student took on the role of a programmer. Equipped with cups and a variety of instructions, labeled “go up,” “move down,” “turn left,” “turn right” and other actions, the programmer was assigned to build a precise set of steps for the robot to follow. 

“Each group decided which structure they wanted to create out of the cups and it was the robot's job to create that structure,” said teacher Jessica Finney-Trotta. “However, the students could only do so by following the algorithm created by the coder. If they were unsuccessful in creating the structure, the group had to debug or find the error in their algorithm and try again.” 

The activity also encouraged the students to collaborate with their peers and understand the importance of following directions.

Code Creators was designed to have student-coders build on their knowledge of programming by viewing themselves as developers of programs, as well as by collaborating, researching and designing a program that solves a real-life problem for users. Finney-Trotta said the students will present their ideas through a variety of resources throughout the year.