A child playing with an electronic kit.
VCU Engineering is offering a free online coding camp this week for middle school students. (Getty Images)

VCU Engineering is providing free programs and resources to keep kids learning at home

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School is out, but the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering is offering free programs and resources to help keep kids learning and discovering for the rest of the school year and beyond.

free online coding camp for middle school students called Code Beats is being offered this week (March 30-April 3) by David Shepherd, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science.

With a multidisciplinary team of VCU faculty members, Shepherd is turning to hip-hop music as an effective — and more importantly, a fun way — to teach basic computer science concepts.

While the coronavirus pandemic thwarted the original plans for an in-person event in early April, the team quickly pivoted to a virtual experience that can be offered to more students. From Monday through Thursday, campers will go through a lesson and work on their own projects. On Friday, April 3, at 5 p.m., the students will livestream a Friday Night Code Beats Tournament in which the students and families can vote for a winner. 

VCU Engineering also offers a free, online Early Engineers Handbook of kid-tested engineering learning activities for students in grades K-8. This resource, provided by the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, is designed to spark curiosity and introduce or reinforce STEM concepts. No special equipment is required; just ordinary household items such as marshmallows, toothpicks and paper towel tubes. There’s also a free, online book of paper airplane designs.