The library of Osakis High School was reminiscent of a science fiction novel, as robots navigated the carpeted floor and flashed blue and red lights on Friday, Dec. 8th.
But unlike a novel, these weren't rogue robots invading Osakis, Minnesota. The students were controlling the robots, learning coding skills and exploring computer science.
"As these kids grow up, robots are going to be normal," technology integrationist Stan Moore said. "Everything is becoming digital and needs someone to program it. As a tech integrationist, I'm just trying to bring that awareness to our school."
Grades kindergarten through 12th grade participated in an Hour of Code. The students were paired up, older grades mentoring younger students at different stations throughout the school.
There was a 3D printer on display, a drone that performed flips and tricks with few taps of the controls, computer games that taught coding skills and robots. Lots of robots.
"Basically, my goal is to get kids passionate about it, just like reading or math," Moore said. "We want them to see it as something they have an opportunity to do something with. I'm going to keep researching things and see if we can use tools and incorporate it into the curriculum."
Schools across the U.S. are incorporating computer programming and coding skills into the everyday curriculum, and Moore's goal is to ensure that Osakis doesn't fall behind the standard.
"I want forward thinking. I don't want us to be coming from behind," Moore said. "At some point the states going to mandate it and we'll all be on the same page. We want Minnesota to be ahead of the game."
According to Code.org, an organization that helps schools integrate coding into regular school curriculum, 93 percent of parents want their child's school to teach computer science, but only 40 percent of schools do.
Minnesota currently has 11,888 open computing jobs. In 2015, only 895 Minnesotans graduated with computer science degrees. Moore sees this disparity of qualified workers high-paying tech jobs as an opportunity.
"We want these kids to feel prepared when they leave high school," Moore said. "In job interviews now it's, 'Do you have another language, do you have programming experience?'"
The tech committee at OHS has been meeting regularly and discussing ways they can integrate more technology into the classroom and the school's curriculum.
The school-wide Hour of Code is just one way Moore is hoping to get kids involved in computer science. Moore hopes to take steps like the Alexandria school district has to create a "makerspace" in the Osakis school — a place where students can gather, explore and create with technology, but he recognizes that it has to be a team effort.
"The teachers really have to believe it too or it doesn't make any sense. It can't just be me," Moore said. "We have to really all believe that this is an important piece like reading is. I don't want them to be scared of it. I don't know how to code everything. We just need to be there to facilitate, to push students to figure things out."