May Center Students Participate in “Hour of Code” Event at Randolph School


More than 150 students from our May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Randolph, Mass., joined millions of other students across the country and around the world who participated in “Hour of Code” events in honor of National Computer Science Week in December.

“Learning how to code is an important 21st-century skill that schools are implementing in their programming,” said May’s Educational Technology Teacher Roba Hrisseh, M.Ed., who organized the event. “Our students should not be an exception! In fact, students with autism tend to gravitate towards technology, and many individuals with autism have the potential to be excellent workforce members in STEM-related fields.” (STEM = science, technology, engineering, and math.)

The school’s Hour of Code event took place over two days and included many activities that appealed to a wide audience – from preschoolers looking for fun to young adults looking to develop marketable skills. “Our students come from a variety of different learning levels and abilities, and I wanted to ensure an equal opportunity for every single one of them to learn about computer science and technology,” Roba said.

“Coding is a language for computers,” she explained. “It is the process of using a programming language to get a computer to behave how you want it to behave.”

It was exciting to watch as students participated in fun and creative coding activities, moving from one station to another in the bright and spacious gym. They coded a human robot, made jewelry and ornaments using binary coding, and created greeting cards with code. Other interactive STEM opportunities took place at stations set up throughout the gym. They included music technology, digital iPad coding, Minecraft coding, virtual reality, and 3D printing. Special kudos go out to the student who staffed the 3D printing station, gave out handouts and 3D-printed souvenirs, and fixed the printer when it malfunctioned!

Thanks also to the many staff members who helped make our Hour of Code event such a success:
Alan Anselmi (adaptive physical education teacher)
Tomas Marques (music teacher)
Jennifer Vanore (art teacher)
The Allied Health Team (speech and occupational therapists): Brittany Belanger, Chelsea Belanger, Rachel Flaherty, Leah Hurley, Jennifer Janeczek, Rachel McCall, Marja Ruderman, and Elizabeth Rudis

“This was the first time we ran an event like this with coding and computer science,” said Roba. “We’re hoping it will be the first annual event of this type. We spent the last year working with the Philanthropy Department to obtain funding for the great equipment we’re now using. Moving forward, we’re discussing coding using robotics, and working more on 3D printing for both educational and recreational projects.”

Roba and her colleagues are already using virtual reality (VR) to enhance student educational experiences for their students, as well as 3D printing! For example, staff members recently planned an outing for students to a bird museum. Using their VR headsets, the students were able to virtually “see” a museum before they went. This helped them prepare for their visit and understand what to expect when they were actually at the museum. Afterwards, they created 3D birds on the school’s 3D printer.

“Our students are now able to access computer science, coding, and state-of-the-art technology at a sophisticated a level,” Roba said. “Our vision for 2020 is to create a computer science and technology curriculum that is uniquely tailored to the needs, interests, and abilities of our students.”

They are well on their way. We can’t wait to see what the new year has in store!

Take a look at the full Flickr album from the day.