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Students at William A. Diggs Elementary School from prekindergarten to fifth grade are cracking the code of computer science during Hour of Code. The Code.org initiative aims to spark interest among students to further study computer science and coding while expanding access and participation among females and underrepresented minorities to the field.

However, the road may not be a smooth one. “Failing is not a bad thing,” said Jason James, a systems engineer volunteering in technology facilitator Alesia McWillis’s class at Diggs. Failing leads to new avenues of thinking, going back to the drawing board and coming up with solutions that can take a person in another, more fruitful direction, he said.

James’ son, Stone, a former Diggs student who is now a sixth grader at Theodore G. Davis Middle School, has inherited his dad’s interest in technology. Stone was at Diggs to run a drone via livestream that McWillis’s third graders were programming with the help of James.

“You have to know how to do it,” Stone said of coding. “You’re not always going to have your parents or your big sister around to help you. We’re moving forward with our devices, we have robots. We have to code them.”

While students in McWillis’s computer lab were hard at work, other classes around Diggs were engaged in various lessons. Teams of fifth graders constructed gumdrop and toothpick bridges strong enough to support a paperback; kindergarteners programmed Bee Bots to travel a grid to meet up with a model dinosaur; fourth graders wrote a code for a classmate to follow in order to complete a task.

“This is the world we live in,” said Leroy Winn, a parent volunteer, pointing out society’s use of technology. Students as young as those in prekindergarten are being introduced to coding as a way to prepare them for the future. Many of the lessons are disguised as play. “It’s fun to play and I’m learning,” said Isaiah Mosley, a third grader. “It’s fun to learn from it,” third grader Yafet Adebabay said of computer science.

“As technology progresses, it’s a part of everyone’s life,” James said. By exposing students to computer science, even with simple lines of code, open doors to other fields of study, he said. “I think it’s really cool and fun,” Stone James said of technology. “I think it’s really important to learn.”