Spartans create winning algorithms with computer science fair activities

East High School senior Darian would like to use her computer science knowledge to create technological breakthroughs in the field of veterinary medicine.
The future geneticist and entrepreneur is using the school’s computer science program as a launching pad for her goals.
Darian joined hundreds of her classmates Dec. 5 during the East Computer Science Fair. Also known as the Hour of Code, the event is designed to promote interest in computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. The activities gave students in grades 9-12 a chance to learn about computer science concepts outside of a classroom setting.
Darian said she was happy to join her friends at the fair. She is interested in computer science and STEM topics because they will allow her to help others in the future.
“I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of it,” said Darian, who wants to double major in computer science and business administration in college. “I like figuring out how to improve something that might not be the most efficient. It’s fun to find a solution where we can use technology and coding to make something better.”
East math teacher Bryan Baxter enjoys watching students like Darian explore a wide variety of activities. Baxter and members of the school’s Computer Science Honor Society Club organized the day. Students from more than a dozen math courses filled tables in the east gym during their class periods.
This year marked the first time the Hour of Code event was held in the gym. Baxter asked club members last spring if they supported changing the makeup of the fair, and they enthusiastically agreed to make it their main project for the fall semester. They moved it from the auditorium, added more interactive lessons and invited students from every math class to attend. East held the event during Computer Science Education Week. 
“It’s been really nice to see how their work has turned out,” Baxter said. “This is the first year we’ve done it like this, and the kids have done a great job. It’s turned out really well.”
Baxter said the change in location was an important part of the fair’s success this year. Instead of trying to accommodate all activities on the auditorium stage, the gym provided students with more room to set up tables and include additional stations. Participants could also move more easily throughout the gym and explore every aspect of the fair.
Seventy-six students from a variety of math classes examined different STEM-based lessons during fifth period. One of those was sophomore Ryan, who spent time working on a laptop-based coding game.
“I think it’s fun to do coding and to see how it works,” Ryan said. “I enjoy it.”
Darian joined several of her friends in another section of the gym for a binary bracelet activity. They used a binary decoder key to find the first letter of their name. They then used multicolored beads to create a binary code pattern that matched that letter of the alphabet.
They completed the project by stringing the beads together on a bracelet. The activity gave students a visual representation of how computers use binary code to store information.
Dozens of students sat at eight tables in one corner of the gym to solve Rubik’s cubes, and others had fun operating a Turning Tumbles game – a marble-based problem-solving activity – in the opposite corner. They also examined the interior hardware of a laptop computer, saw what the inside of an arcade game looked like and visited with representatives from several colleges.
Baxter spoke with students during each session of the Hour of Code and offered assistance at the stations. He received positive feedback from many mathematicians as they shared their excitement about the day.
Baxter said he has been encouraged with the rising interest in computer science at East. The school has three student clubs that are devoted to the topic – Girls Who Code Club, Computer Science Club and Computer Science Honor Society Club – and all of them are growing.
“Computer Science Club had been in the single digits, and this year we have more than 20 students,” Baxter said. “The numbers are definitely up for the other two clubs too. It’s really exciting to see that happen.”
Darian has developed many friendships by being a member of all three clubs. She founded the Girls Who Code Club in October 2021 and has been instrumental in spreading knowledge of STEM subjects throughout the school. She said the fair highlighted how many opportunities East students have to create winning algorithms in computer science.
“It’s really awesome what we have here at East,” Darian said.
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Published: December 7, 2023, Updated: December 8, 2023

Lincoln East senior Darian works on a binary bracelet activity during a computer science fair on Dec. 5. Students used a binary decoder key to find the first letter of their name. They then used multicolored beads to create a binary code pattern that matched that letter of the alphabet on a bracelet. Hundreds of Spartans took part in a range of math and technology activities throughout the day.