As Wakefield Elementary School sixth grader David Palomino pressed “publish” on his computer screen Monday, he watched in astonishment as the beginnings of his very own website came to life.
Palomino — along with all sixth graders at Wakefield — received an introductory course on coding from students in the Mu Delta Chapter of Theta Tau at University of California, Merced for the Nu Class’ Day of Service. Throughout the lesson, students learned the basics of HTML by experimenting with different font colors and choosing what picture of ice cream they wanted to use on their web page.
“I really liked it and I might think about doing this when I’m older,” said Palomino. “I want to go to Stanford one day.”
Tlaloc Barajas, who is in his second year at UC Merced majoring in computer science and minoring in applied mathematics, was one prospective member of Theta Tau’s Nu Class that helped organize the Monday lesson at Wakefield.
“We were given the task to coordinate our own project, which is one of the requirements in order to be initiated,” said Barajas. “We had all agreed on hosting an event that would help people learn more about STEM and engineering as whole and we oriented our programs to be more understandable for children of a younger age so that they would be able to understand the foundations of STEM and not be too intimidated.”
Wakefield students not only got their first taste of coding Monday, but also received an introductory course on mechanical engineering as UC Merced students challenged them to build the tallest structure using only uncooked spaghetti and tape. The finished product did not qualify unless students were also able to balance a marshmallow on top.
“They had to use their knowledge and ability to experiment quickly to build a structure that could support the weight of a fairly big marshmallow,” said Barajas. “We wanted something that would get them interested in mechanical engineering.”
UC Merced students also gave Wakefield sixth graders a basic chemical engineering lesson by teaching them about thermal energy and chemical reactions, such as exothermic reactions, by showing them how to make their own ice cream. Students were awarded with an ice cream cone at the end of the lesson.
“I think our event went very well. The experience was both fun and educational for them without them knowing,” said Barajas. “We were very happy students were engaged and learning. A lot of them were able to understand what we were teaching them. We felt it was a great eye opening experience to students of a younger age into STEM.”