Astro Space Coding Club
New Astro Space Coding Club teaches coding and more
A corner of the library was taken over by a group of eight eighth-graders. They sat quietly at tables, deep in thought, the clicking of their keyboards the only sound being made.
On their screens appeared details about the space race, Mayan culture, Japanese star constellations and more.
Members of the new Astro Space Coding Club had been busy researching the topics that interested them most. Eventually, the students will take all of their information, and using several software programs, they will learn to code. Ultimately, they will create a in presentation to share in the Port Chester Middle School Planetarium.
This past summer, astronomy teacher Jaime Rufo attended the Spitz Inc. Summer Institute. Spitz Inc. has been providing materials for planetariums for more than 70 years. The company later reached out to her asking Ms. Rufo asking if she would start a coding program geared toward middle school students. The school was able to obtain five laptops for club members to use, two groups of two students are sharing a computer while the other students work on their own computer.
“All have their own unique story,” Ms. Rufo said of the topics the students selected to research.
As the school year continues, club members will learn to use a variety of software programs including Adobe Photoshop, Spitz Video, ATM-4, Starry Night and Audacity to put together their final presentations.
“There are a lot of moving pieces,” Ms. Rufo said of the process of going from selecting a topic to the final presentation.
The club, she said, is completely student driven. She is there to facilitate the process, but students have total control over their projects.
Ashley Gutierrez has always had an interest in learning to code, and when she heard the club was starting, she decided to join. She selected Draco, a constellation in the northern sky, for her topic.
“When I heard Draco, I thought of a dragon,” Ashley said, which makes perfect sense because it is the Latin word for dragon.
Animation has always been of interest to Ava Osorio, who joined so she could learn more about editing animated features. She chose to research the space race because she likes history.
“One thing I didn’t know is we got the planetarium because of the space race,” Ava said of the tidbit she learned during her research.
Having enjoyed an astronomy class so much, Amanda DeFeo decided the club was a great way to continue her studies.
Amanda selected the Three Stones of the Hearth, an astronomical feature of Mayan culture represented by the three brightest stars in the constellation Orion.
“The Mayans say it symbolizes their home,” Amanda said.
While many studies of ancient people focus on Greek history and mythology, Amanda selected the Mayans because they were so different from other ancient peoples.
Nicholas Bedoya is also researching a constellation from a different culture, that of the Genbu Yokai, a Japanese star constellation.
Nicholas said he has always been intrigued by Japanese culture and researched Japanese constellations, which led him to a website where he learned about Genbu Yokai, a combination of a turtle and a snake located in the northern sky.
“It was really fascinating,” he said of the constellation.
The club meets twice a week, and on this day, Nicholas was drawing out what he will eventually code his presentation to look like.
“I really like astronomy and when I heard of the club, I thought ‘this sounds fun,’” he said, adding he is excited to learn more about coding too.
“I always thought space science was awesome and cool,” Ian Orellana said as to why he decided to join the club.
Ian is working with Karla Zabala, who said she also finds space and the stars “fascinating.”
The two are researching how our galaxy is eventually going to die and how that will happen.
“Scientists are not sure what is causing it,” Ian said.
“I learned that more than 14 billion years ago, it died for seven billion years and came back to life,” Karla said.
Partners Jiovanna Bastias and Destiny Dominguez are researching mythological constellations.
“I’ve always loved mythology,” Jiovanna said.
Destiny said she has always liked the story of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea known for his ornery temper.
“My first marking period I took astronomy and thought it was cool,” Jiovanna said, adding that several of her friends joined the club, so she thought she would too.