Code.org unveiled a Star Wars-themed computer science tutorial featuring Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 as well as Rey and BB-8 from the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The online lesson kicks off the third-annual global Hour of Code campaign, in honour of Computer Science Education Week, December 7-13, 2015.
Thanks to Disney and Star Wars, students will learn to write code that allows them to create fun challenges and games using Star Wars characters. Participants will join forces with Rey to guide BB-8 through a space mission, then team up with Princess Leia to build their own game featuring R2-D2 or C-3PO. Students will also be able to play their completed games on smartphones and share them with friends and family through a unique link.
This is the second year Disney has worked with Code.org on a coding tutorial featuring Disney characters. Last year’s tutorial — which President Obama participated in at the White House for the Hour of Code last December — has been completed more than 13 million times and tapped Anna and Elsa from Walt Disney Animation Studio’s blockbuster film “Frozen.” More than 100 million students across 180 countries have tried an Hour of Code tutorial, including one in three students in US schools, according to Code.org estimates.
In addition to the lesson, role models and technologists, including Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Rachel Rose, a Senior R&D engineer working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Charita Carter, Senior Creative Producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, have provided short video lectures to help students through the one-hour activity.
In addition to partnering with Code.org to make the “Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code” tutorial available for free in more than 180 countries, The Walt Disney Company is donating $100,000 to support Code.org’s efforts to bring computer science education to after-school programs throughout the United States. One lucky classroom will win the grand prize – a trip to San Francisco, Calif. for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes “Making of Star Wars” experience with the visual effects team who worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The grand prize is courtesy of ILMxLAB, a new laboratory for immersive entertainment, combining the talents of Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. Sphero, a company that participated in the 2014 Disney Accelerator, will also be gifting programmable BB-8 TM droids to 100 participating classrooms. HP Inc has also donated Star Wars TM Special Edition Notebook devices to 10 participating teachers. And during Computer Science Education Week in December, Disney will host an Hour of Code event for local students at their Los Angeles office, and Disney VoluntEARS will support Hour of Code events around the world.
The “Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code” tutorial is the newest addition to Code.org’s online learning platform, Code Studio, which offers a suite of self-guided computer science activities and courses for students to learn the fundamentals of computer science, starting as early as kindergarten.
At a time when the majority of K-12 schools don’t offer computer science, more than 5 million students have enrolled on Code Studio since its 2014 launch, including 10 percent of all K-8 students in the United States. Additionally, 43 percent of Code Studio students are girls, and 37 percent are black or Hispanic.
This reach is substantial, considering women hold only 23% of computing jobs, just 18% of bachelor’s degrees in computer science are awarded to women, and only 22% of high school AP Computer Science exam takers are girls. Furthermore, only 18% of bachelor’s degrees in computer science are awarded to blacks and Latinos and, at the high school level, 9% of AP Computer Science exam takers are Hispanic, and just 4% are black.
Beyond the Hour of Code, Code.org has partnered with Disney on “Infinity Play Lab,” an environment where students code stories or games starring Disney Infinity versions of Anna and Elsa from “Frozen,” Hiro and Baymax from “Big Hero 6” and Rapunzel of “Tangled.” Code.org has also released Hour of Code tutorials with artwork from Rovio’s Angry Birds, PopCap Games’ Plants vs. Zombies and the acorn-crazed squirrel Scrat from the Twentieth Century Fox animated series “Ice Age.”
Try a preview of the “Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code” tutorial now on Code Studio (http://Code.org/starwars). The experience will also be available on Disney.com soon.
And sign up to participate in this year’s Hour of Code event: http://HourOfCode.com