Lunchtime coding event at Terra Linda High School showcases their brand new $19 million Innovation Lab to provide a space for students to learn coding, programming, digital animation, and design.
(TNS) — Plushy toys in 3-D, animated cats and mascots with box-like heads were all part of Monday’s lunchtime coding event at Terra Linda High School’s new $19 million Innovation Lab.
“It’s customization,” junior Alejandro Alvarado said of the appeal of the group computer coding project on the video game “Minecraft,” which has a box-headed mascot. “You can make (the character) do whatever you want — move forward, change colors.”
Senior Tristyn Lai said she and her classmates were working on producing their own video game.
“It’s fun, because everybody gets to collaborate,” she said.
Alvarado and Lai were two of more than 50 teens who showed up for the free event, part of Terra Linda’s weeklong celebration of National Computer Science Education Week. Two more demo days will be offered at the lab at lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed on Thursday by lectures from industry experts.
Junior David Muller, vice president of the Innovation Lab student group, and junior Finlay Norton-Lindsay, the group president, said they run an after-school program on Wednesdays.
“We’re building an AI self-driving car,” Muller said.
On Friday, seniors in Terra Linda’s video games academy will share their java sequencing projects, including the game “Boardwalk Breakout,” which involves a plushy toy at a boardwalk arcade that tries to escape. If that or the other games in process meet approval from the experts, they will be “greenlighted” to move forward through five stages of development — prototype, playable, vertical slice, buildable and release, said Bruce Gustin, director of the school’s video games academy.
“The last two stages are the ‘alpha’ and ‘beta,'” Gustin said. Students who complete the work are more likely to apply for special certifications that could help them enroll in college engineering and design programs, give them a leg up for internships or even nab entry level tech jobs.
“It gives them a foot in the door for getting into programs, because those are in high demand,” Gustin said.
Whether it was the free pizza or the fun of coding with friends, more students showed up for Monday’s event than the 30 or so that were expected.
“We have a record turnout,” said Maya Bartolf, a staffer with the Marin County Office of Education’s XR Marin, a new program that includes academic support for curriculum in XR, a catch-all phrase that encompasses 3-D, 360 immersive video, artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies.
“I think it speaks to the legacy of TL innovation lab, working as a partner with stakeholders, our principal, San Rafael City Schools district and teachers,” she said. “(We’re) driving computer science into the curriculum with video game development programs, art programs — and celebrations like computer science week — so students can have 21st century skills for computer readiness.”
Bartolf, a former Terra Linda parent who helped get the Innovation Lab curriculum started about four years ago, said the school’s goal is not only to introduce applied computer science programs but also to focus on equity of access for teen girls and kids from underrepresented communities. About a third of the participants at Monday’s event were female.
“I just wanted to check things out,” said junior Elizabeth Tervet.
The lab facilities, which include four computer classrooms and a central lounge area for group meetings and presentations, opened in August at the former site of the school’s library and career counseling office. The project was built using voter-approved Measure B bond money, said Terra Linda Principal Katy Dunlap. A recording studio is also off of the lounge area for producing digital music and other media.
“We actually opened the innovation lab about a week and half before school started,” Dunlap said. “A lot of things are happening here — it’s exciting.”
The classes in the lab range from computer graphics, to coding and programming, to digital animation and design.
A new library, counseling office and a cafeteria are under construction in a separate Measure B-funded commons area across from the innovation lab.
©2019 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.