Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Alumni company shares $2 million grant from NSF to teach kids how to code

A company co-founded by two Jacobs School computer science alums is a partner in a $2 million grant to teach how to program inside of Minecraft to children in fifth- through eighth-grade throughout the state of Maine.

ThoughtSTEM is partnering with the University of Maine to run the grant. Students will be using LearnToMod, a software that teaches how to code inside of Minecraft. It all will be part of a program administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extensioin 4-H, which plans to reach more than 1,000 students. The grant specifically targets students in rural areas.

“The use of computer games as a mechanism for teaching computer science concepts while also improving the effectiveness of the core curriculum is incredibly exciting,” Bruce Segee, who also is the director of the Advanced Computing Group for the University of Maine System and the grant's principal investigator said in a statement. “We believe that we will see an improvement in student learning across multiple areas.”

ThoughtSTEM was co-founded by computer science Ph.D.s Sarah Guthals and Stephen Foster, with biochemistry Ph.D. Lindsey Handley. In addition to LearnToMod, the company provides classes to teach children how to code in San Diego and elsewhere.

Guthals, Foster and Handley also have co-authored "Modding for Minecraft for Kids" in the "For Dummies" series.

Read the full University of Maine press release here.

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