After-school Code Club offers springboard to the future for Beloit students Print
Written by Pat Casucci, Catholic Herald Correspondent   
Thursday, Jun. 01, 2017 -- 12:00 AM


OLA Code Club
Students in the Code Club at Our Lady of the Assumption School look at the 3D printer as Adam Gracyalny explains the process. (Catholic Herald photo/Pat Casucci)

BELOIT -- It's music to Adam Gracyalny's ears even though songbooks and choral singing are replaced by Chromebooks and lively conversation in the music room at Our Lady of the Assumption (OLA) Grade School.

Gracyalny, who is the OLA music teacher, changes hats to conduct Code Club meetings. About 40 students in kindergarten through eighth grade are learning how to write code, how to create simple objects with 3D printing, and how basic concepts can empower them to do many things with a computer.

Building enthusiasm

The meetings are held each Wednesday for an hour after school dismisses. Enthusiastic about computer technology, Gracyalny said, "My main goal is to get kids interested in computer programming and to introduce them to 3D printing as well as more advanced processes.

"As they continue their schooling and progress into the future job market, I want them to have an advantage, to be qualified and enthused."

He added that, at present, "there are some 9,400 jobs in the computer field that are not able to be filled."

Though music is his profession, Gracyalny said, "I purchased a 3D printer last Christmas and was so intrigued with it. I wanted to share this with our students. When I discussed my idea with (school principal) Mr. Seivert, he eagerly said, 'Go for it!'"

Code Club is self-run

Gracyalny described OLA Code Club as "self-run, the students create things such as games. The focus is on discovery and fun. It's intended," he said, "to help students understand the numerous possibilities of computer use, such as creating computer software, apps, and websites."

At meetings, he may start with a basic program so students learn how to figure out how computer games work and learn how to program simple computer games.

"Also, we learn about the 3D printer, how it works. We take a 3D model and learn how it's turned into a 3D object." He said older students have made three-dimensional solid objects such as animal forms on the 3D printer.

At a recent Code Club meeting, Gracyalny patiently gave instructions to eager students as they began their activities. He guides and answers questions in an easy-going manner.

A group of lower grade students, sitting on music room risers, were animated as they played strategy games. Gracyalny pointed out that younger students are learning "to think like a programmer does."

A few older students were intent on learning how computer games work and were creating their own games.

Meanwhile several students took turns, each showing Gracyalny a picture of a suitable object chosen to make as a teacher's gift using a 3D printer. Gracyalny explained the processes required to send the picture to the 3D printer and then print the form.

Principal praises club

Commenting on the Code Club, OLA Principal Trevor Seivert enthusiastically stated, "Oh my goodness! It's been an amazing thing for our kids. By learning coding and doing 3D printing, it's such a huge ability for our 21st century students. It's a huge springboard for their future — in the real world life skills."

Seivert added, "This activity certainly proves it's not what you know, it's what you can do with what you know. Our students and parents enjoy this great after-school club."

On the practical side, he said, "Code Club enhances our curriculum with math, science, and art combined together in an after-school club. They're working with geometry, computers, and technology."

Seivert appreciates Gracyalny's dedication. "Adam is doing a phenomenal job teaching the students of all ages. I think this is his secret passion. He's sharing his knowledge and we are very proud of it."

He added, "I think this sets OLA apart from some of the other schools in the area. It's an inexpensive activity for us to offer to our students here at OLA."


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