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BYU student teaches kids to code with Minecraft

By Ashtyn Asay - | Jul 8, 2022
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Drew Carson
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A scene from the Minecraft: Education Edition classroom run by Drew Carson. He and his students have built together the world.
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A scene from the Minecraft: Education Edition classroom run by Drew Carson. He and his students have built together the world.

Drew Carson, a pre-business student at Brigham Young University, doesn’t believe that learning how to code should be boring.

Carson, who originally studied computer science at BYU, found a way to combine his computer skills with his entrepreneurial spirit with a new project — Build & Code Club. The club is designed to provide a space for kids ages 9-14 to learn to code without even knowing it.

“These coding platforms that exist … kids get on and it’s like homework, it’s like a second school,” he said. “So I figured, there’s got to be a way to make this more fun.”

Carson began brainstorming business ideas earlier this year, and his first idea was a competitive electronic sports team for kids, although he soon realized that parents aren’t typically too fond of e-sports.

“I just started studying the market to see if parents would be interested in, like, an e-sports team for kids,” he said. “It turns out there’s a lot of stigma against competitive gaming, it’s just something parents are usually trying to get their kids away from.”

However, while conducting market research, Carson discovered that the negative perception many parents had of e-sports and video games, in general, didn’t apply to Minecraft, a popular online building game.

“It’s because the parents perceive it as an educational game,” he said. “I did a little more digging and found out that there’s a version of Minecraft called ‘Minecraft: Education Edition,’ and that is what I’ve built the Build & Code Club on.”

At Build & Code Club, Carson’s students are given three guided coding activities a week using “Minecraft: Education Edition.” Unlike the original version of the game, the education edition encourages players to code in order to create their virtual world.

Help Hours are available via Zoom, Monday through Thursday, each week for students who may be struggling to complete their coding activities. The entire class meets up in Minecraft to participate in a group activity every Friday.

“One thing I love about it, and the kids love about it, is that we do treasure hunts,” Carson said. “Every Friday you sign on at 4 p.m. Mountain Time and there’s a chalkboard in the game that gives them clues to find treasures.”

Although Carson only launched Build & Code Club last month, he already has close to 30 students learning to code. While he doesn’t believe that all of his students will eventually go into coding-related careers, Carson does believe that they are learning a skill that will give them confidence in various aspects of their lives.

“I think coding is probably the most important 21st century skill that a kid can have,” he said. “I think there are so many ways that you can apply those fundamental skills, so many mediums through which you can create and express yourself. But the fundamental point here is just to teach them that they are empowered to create.”

For more information on Build & Code Club, visit https://linktr.ee/buildncode.

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