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Coding for kids

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In this classroom at New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School, instead of pouring over pages of literature or listening to teachers lecture, students play with robots.

"I'm trying to set up LEDs, these little red lights so I can make it blink 10 times," said student Chris Johnson.

The kids are tasked with making the robots move using coding.

"I was giddy the moment I got the first light to start blinking. This is amazing," said Isaac Schnieders.

Just four months before the class, most of these students didn't know a thing about coding. In fact, it's not a common course offered at area high schools. It's a skill that teacher Andrew Winstead, believes is incredibly valuable.

"It's my personal belief for students to learn how to code is very important, not only for the future but for the job market," said Winstead.

By now you may be asking what exactly is coding? Well, coding is essentially programming for a computer. People can use basic commands to manipulate things like images, designs or robots. 

At Riverdale High School in Jefferson, students use their knowledge to produce videos.

"It's not child's play, this is real stuff that they would encounter in a college level computer science class," said John Patridge, a teacher.

Showing off a music video she created, student Talynn Bell explained how she creates the movements of her characters.

"I used 'if then' statements to make them move - like if dance equals velocity then it'll move how much I've set velocity to," explained Bell.

Bell is well versed in the computer language needed to create the video, but she admits learning to code was a daunting task.

"It was hard because at first, I didn't know what all the stuff meant or where or how to do it," said Bell.

With just a few months practice, she's already becoming a pro and hopes to use the skill in the future to find a job. In fact, more and more companies in New Orleans are looking to hire people who know how to code.

"We need more people that really understand the stuff and the best way to learn it is to start when you're young," said Matt Wisdom, CEO of TurboSquid.

Wisdom founded the TurboSquid, a company that sells graphics online, 14-years ago. When Wisdom was younger, computer science classes didn't exist. Over the years, he's marveled at how the industry has grown.

"It's a skill that's becoming like writing. It comes up in art, it comes up in computer games, it comes up in basic finance, it comes up in all kinds of engineering and science. It's all over the place," said Wisdom.

According to Wisdom, there are plenty of jobs in the technology field directly related to coding to be had.

Back at New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School, setting his students up for life after graduation is something Andrew Winstead focuses on.

"There's lots of jobs that are unfilled because we just don't have students graduating. So I feel it's my duty as a teacher to try to fill some of these jobs," said Winstead.

If his students can master learning how to control make robots with coding, Winstead says the class, and their understanding of coding, is a success.

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