August 9, 2018-- Toms River Regional Schools Summer Coding Camp, part of the TR:TechReady program made possible by a three-year grant from the Office of Naval Research, concluded today with capstone projects, big-picture reflections, and visits from parents and community members.
The big-picture intent of TR:TechReady is to provide students the coding and technological skills to advance to high-paying careers, and to match them with local mentors and community members who can help them get there. The spirit of that goal was on full display in the summer camp, and one prime example included a trolley, an app, and a dream.
Downtown Toms River has a trolley that provides transportation to residents. Business Improvement District Executive Director Nick Zorojew, who visited the summer camp early on, had always wanted an app to track the trolley’s whereabouts and provide ETAs on future stops. This idea caught the attention of High School East rising ninth-grader Sabrina Chung, who took on the app’s creation as her capstone project for MIT App Inventor.
“I heard about the camp through our school’s email blast, and it was free, so I thought, Why not?” Sabrina said. With the help of camp mentor and computer science teacher Matthew Chang, Sabrina began developing the Downtown Toms River Trolly App. Sabrina and Mr. Chang are still refining it-- the trolly currently has a phone broadcasting a signal to the app, and they need to replace that with a more feasible GPS device-- but the bones of the application are solid and in place. They hope to make it available for Android (and, eventually, iPhones) on Google.
Shivalika Gupta, a rising senior in Ocean Township School District, met High School North students Vivian Nguyen and Jeff Chang in the summer coding camp’s Arduino session, where they collaborated on building an alarm clock. During session two, they moved to HTML5, where they advanced that nocturnal spirit by writing code for a website dedicated to information about sleep, from the causes of sleep deprivation and its impacts to a faux product page that sells sleep-based items like-- yes-- their alarm clock.
“We don’t get enough sleep,” joked Vivian about their inspiration for their capstone project.
Being out of district, Shivalika did not know Jeff or Vivian before the summer camp, but they became fast friends, combining their interest in coding to create multiple products on the continuum of a single idea.
One of the district’s primary partners for TR:TechReady, which will use naval engineering resources and principles to advance its mission, is the New Jersey Naval Air Warfare Center (NAVAIR) at Lakehurst. The naval base’s education outreach coordinator, Haidy Oliveira, attended the camp on multiple occasions and walked away impressed.
“I noticed right away that kids were just really enjoying this,” Oliveira said. “It wasn’t just, it’s summer and I’m bored so I’ll go to this camp.
“But what’s also stood out is the cross-curricular aspect. The teachers leading this are great, and they’re not just computer programmers-- they teach English, Spanish, and other subjects you don’t normally associate with coding. And the students they teach aren’t just AP kids; they’re general population students, and students with special needs. That is so important when it comes to the impact of this program.”
High School North juniors Crystal Pan and Zuha Nasim worked collaboratively to build a travel blog using HTML5. The blog featured countries such as Morocco, Indonesia, and Thailand. The students wrote the blog as if they had traveled to each destination and were reporting back to readers on their travels.
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