It was a hot and sunny afternoon in mid-2013 when we started the first after-school code club upstairs in the main branch of the Mesa Public Library. In those early months, with 50 or 60 kids showing up for code club every week, we became hooked on the importance of providing kids coding education for free, through the library.
As our humble club grew, we began to dream up new fun opportunities for youth coding education. In 2016, we organized “The Great AZ Code Challenge,” which was essentially a two-day code-a-thon for kids. Approximately 400 kids from around Arizona descended on a local tech company’s headquarters, where they coded projects for 48 hours for the chance to win prizes. It was insane, chaotic and beautiful ― all at the same time. The governor even recorded a video for our closing ceremonies. This event became a mainstay in the Arizona community over the following years.
When libraries (and the majority of the world) shut down last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed only natural to transfer our love of organizing coding competitions and special events for youth to the virtual world. So we put our heads together and came up with a summer event: The Great Prenda Code Challenge 2020. We created some special projects for our coders around the world, and gave them a chance to win cool prizes, such as code-able robots and drones, Makey Makeys and Raspberry Pis.
The event was a huge success! We had tons of kids participating, growing and stretching their coding skills throughout the summer. We found the event did a really good job at re-engaging coders who hadn’t logged on in a while, and an even better job bringing in new coders for the first time.
Coming out of that amazing experience, we decided to add these types of special events to our standard services for all our partner libraries. We are now offering special coding competitions for youth worldwide once a quarter. Our next one is running now through January, 31, 2021, and the theme is “My Holiday Robot.”
The feedback from libraries has been outstanding. Our partner libraries love that they have something fun and exciting to talk about with patrons every couple of months. They love seeing new users come in and current users engage with the program. Most of all, they love that Prenda does the heavy lifting, and they just help us get the word out.
With our learn-to-code software digital resource, training and support for code clubs, and now regular coding competitions, we’re helping libraries engage in the coding movement at the highest level.
Here are the dates for Prenda’s 2021 Coding Competitions:
Winter: December 15 – January 31 (Holiday Code Challenge)
Spring: March 3 – April 14
Summer: June 1 – July 31
Fall: September 15 – October 27
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