Three students showcasing their robots at Coding at the Capitol

The team from Rise STEM Academy for Girls (Fayette County) was one of 11 that participated from different Kentucky school districts in the Coding at the Capitol event in Frankfort.
Photo by Crystal Sicard, Sept. 19, 2023

Students from all over the state gathered at the Kentucky State Capitol on Sept. 19 for an opportunity to present their computer science projects to legislators. The event, designed to recognize National Coding Week, addressed accessibility issues for students and job opportunities around the state and within the education industry.

“I’ve been excited ever since they told me I could come,” said Janice Sualla, a 4th-grader at Rise STEM Academy for Girls (Fayette County). “I have been waiting for this because I love coding.”

Sualla was one of the many students who attended the event to present her coding skills to legislators and community members. She presented a mini robot that she controlled remotely to move across a board.

Coding at the Capitol was an event created by AdvanceKentucky, an initiative of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation. This organization works to advance science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and computer science initiatives around the state.

“When you get into it, you will start to love it,” Sualla said of coding. “It’s like broccoli: you don’t know if you like it until you try it. That’s how it is with coding.”

Rise STEM Academy for Girls was one of the 11 schools that participated in the showcase.

Sherri McGuffin, STEM coordinator for AdvanceKentucky, said this event is meant to bring together educators, policymakers, industry professionals and advocates to explore the pivotal role of computer science education.

McGuffin said the event shows “the grit and the nature of what our students are capable of and how fundamental computer science is.”

Students at the showcase displayed their creations of apps, games, computer programs and robots. Set up on computer monitors students demonstrated the work that went into each project and what they learned in the process.

With students like Sualla, McGuffin said computer science is more than just writing code.

“It’s about creative thinking, problem-solving and inspiration,” she said.

During the showcase, community members and legislators had an opportunity to join in on a discussion about the importance of creating accessibility for computer science within schools around the state.

“We really want to make sure every student in Kentucky has access to computer science within their schools regardless of where they live – whichever holler or city – they have access,” McGuffin said.

McGuffin said she hopes this event encouraged lawmakers in Kentucky to help “create access and inspire students in Kentucky to do things they never thought possible.”