Two UC San Diego computer scientists who co-founded ThoughtSTEM, an Extension-based learning program for students ages 8 to 18, have created software in which users learn coding while playing the education videogame Minecraft.
Dubbed LearntoMod and priced at $30, the program is the brainchild of Stephen Foster, a Ph.D. student in computer science at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, and Lindsey Handley, a biochemistry Ph.D. student at UC San Diego.
“Our goal is to teach kids computer science while they’re having fun,” said Foster.
In 2012, the pair co-founded ThoughtSTEM along with UC San Diego computer science Ph.D. student Sarah Esper, who is currently teaching four ThoughtSTEM courses with Extension.
Sarah Esper: Co-founder, ThoughtSTEM
Foster and Handley got the idea for the software package while teaching programming classes at ThoughtSTEM. Many of their students would show up with Minecraft T-shirts and talk about their love of the game.
Foster and Handley saw this is a unique opportunity to get students excited about coding. They have pilot-tested LearntoMod in ThoughtSTEM classes generating positive student feedback.
Starting in October, ThoughtSTEM will present a series of online programming courses that include UC San Diego college credits.
“These credits show admission reviewers that students have been taking classes outside of high school and have done work at the college level,” said Edward Abeyta, director of K-16 programs at UC San Diego Extension. “They have been evaluated on learning outcomes while they advance their knowledge and skills.”