Our Lady of Fatima Elementary offers programming course

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Anything you use on your smart phone or tablet is built on some sort of computer programming language. One school in Biloxi is educating students on how to create that programming. Our Lady of Fatima Elementary is teaching students how software works and how to develop it.

The 10-week computing course is open to students in second through fifth grades. The 10 students in the afterschool class give their computer instructions to create everything from simple games to short animated stories.

The school's principal says the course involves not only computer programming, but math skills, problem solving and critical thinking. She hopes the lessons they learn will get them more interested in studying computer technology.

"You have 3-year-olds that can do things on computers that a lot of older people like me can't do," said Principal Cindy Hahn. "So we're trying to be proactive and teach them the proper skills and a way to maintain that and how to function with technology, because it's so rapidly changing daily."

Part of their lesson, taught by software engineer and instructor Ricky Keller, includes creating a game that involves moving a snowman to the end of a maze without hitting the red area. The students also have to create obstacles in the game.

Keller said he's surprised at how quickly the students have been learning the core concepts of programming.

"A lot of them caught on and said, 'Hey, we're bored. We need more stuff to do.'  We've done some things with simple object detection, collision detection, and input detection to do simple movement. Something that you would see similar to Angry Birds or other games that kids like to play on the phone," said Keller.

The students have four more weeks left on the course. Their instructor said the students will also learn to create 2-D animations.

Kahn said she wants to bring this program back in the Fall.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.