‘Minecraft' getting kids into coding

  • 22-Oct-2014 10:55 EDT
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ThoughtSTEM founder Stephen Foster gave a presentation on the program at a TEDxUCSD event.

Stephen Foster, CEO and Co-Founder of ThoughtSTEM, has a new outlook on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and the utilities that can be used to get kids involved in software coding. Foster had the opportunity to speak at TEDxUCSD (http://youtu.be/mn4RHIxriEY) this past summer, where he divulged his exciting theory.

He had spent the past several years developing a game called “Code Spell” in an attempt to find ways to get kids interested in coding. Foster inadvertently discovered what he thinks will “unlock computer science as we know it for a massive fraction of humanity.” It’s “Minecraft,” the game played by more than 30 million people and what represents the key to the future for Foster and ThoughtSTEM.

Foster is so captured by the idea that he has created a curriculum at ThoughtSTEM that surrounds the game. The summer program, “Intro to Minecraft,” is having remarkable success, selling out all of its June-July time slots. In fact, the class’ success has allowed it to launch a web version of “Intro to Minecraft,” enabling kids from around the world a chance to learn how to code.

Foster imagines a future where the majority of people know the language of code, rather than the small fraction that large corporations rely on. In his opinion, coding is the “most powerful problem-solving tool,” which makes it crucial for today’s youth to learn.

Instead of adding on to a litany of other homework that students have, Foster desires to teach code through an activity that they already love. “Minecraft” is easily “modded” or recoded by the user and is already considered “cool” for millions of youth.

Foster and ThoughtSTEM are also partnering with the University of California, San Diego to offer college credits while learning computer science through “Minecraft” mods (visit www.thoughtstem.com/home/programs/minecraft-courses). There is no age limit for enrollment, which entitles the enrollee to free LearnToMod e-learning software (www.learntomod.com/software).

With a bit of direction from ThoughtSTEM, Foster hopes that “Minecraft” will go “down in the history books as a key moment in the history of computer science, maybe even the history of humanity.”

Matt May, a senior communications major at Malone University and SAE International summer intern, wrote this article for MOMENTUM.

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