Get with the programming

Beginning this year, Tiffin Middle School has introduced a computer programming club for students interested in a career as a programmer.

The club is headed by Yolanda Gonzales, the parent of a fifth-grade student at TMS. The club meets 3-4 p.m. every Thursday.

The program first began in March 2012 and was fully implemented the beginning of this year, she said.

Gonzales first started a group at her house.

“The small group learned from each other,” she said. “They loved it.”

Gonzales said she then went to TMS Principal Robert Boes and asked to begin the Computer Programming Club. The club does not cost the school any money.

Gonzales introduced the program Small Basic, a free, self-teaching programming software.

“The students can learn on their own and is no cost to the school,” Gonzales said.

There are 18 students in grades 6-8 who have signed up. Gonzales said she has more joining every day. The students now are learning how to code and are to later learn how to design games, Gonzales said.

“There really isn’t any end to what we can do,” she said. “Later, I would like to teach them HTML.”

“The students that join show an interest in computer programming,” Gonzales said. “They have a desire to learn and push themselves. They are hungry for the information.”

Gonzales said she has 14 computers donated, and students have to share. The computers are old and crash and stall often, she said.

“I would appreciate any donations,” she said.

Gonzales said she had to buy some new hard drives, which were paid for by the Parent Teacher Organization.

“I volunteer my services to the club and Sentinel helped clean up the computer and get them ready for the club,” Gonzales said. “Also, James Smith at SmithSystems has volunteered his expertise on guiding me and troubleshooting.”

Gonzales also plans to bring in community members and students from Heidelberg and Tiffin universities to speak to the students.

“This club is great because most students either don’t have a computer at home or do not get introduced to information like this until college,” Gonzales said. “This way they have the opportunity to explore what they like and what type of career they are looking to go into. Our students are smart and they shouldn’t have to wait until college. My students love this club.”

Gonzales said she would like to see the students compete in programming challenges.

“When I took programming classes in college, I learned more from my classmates than I did from the professor,” Gonzales said. “I wanted to create an environment where the students could share programming ideas, a kind of show and tell.”