Middle school STEM students develop apps, teach skills


Photo credit: Ariel Heimanson

In her element, Ariel Heimanson '21 teaches a teenager how to use basic Scratch through a STEM outreach program called Coding Crew. Heimanson has been involved in this program since 6th grade.

At Archer, ambitious, joyful learning doesn’t just start when high school does. Middle School students are going beyond the traditional curriculum and exploring their passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in and out of school.

Lily Stone ’22 is working on developing an interactive pong app, in which a ball ricochets off of a block, using JavaScript in her seventh-grade game design class.

“You have to do a lot of coding when the ball hits the block, and that was really hard,” Stone said. “You had to do a lot of ‘if statements’ because of the dimensions of the block. It took a really long time to figure out because there was a lot of math also involved.”

Coding has always interested Stone, who discovered her passion for STEM when she enrolled in a computer science camp in fourth grade.

“Last year in sixth grade, when we did a unit in coding for one of the languages, I really wished I could have done it as an actual language, but they were offering it as an art [this year],” she said. “We’re writing actual lines of code, whereas last year it was more of a drag and drop method in Scratch.”

Stone credits Archer with providing her with opportunities to take classes and X-Blocks in the STEM field.

“I’ve always been interested in STEM, but Archer has made me realize how fun it is,” Stone said.

Ariel Heimanson ’21 also expressed her appreciation for Archer’s many resources and information about how to get involved with STEM. Heimanson is involved in coding education through Coding Crew, a branch of LA MakerSpace.

“In sixth grade I learned about [Coding Crew] from other Archer students, where you teach elementary students Scratch — like beginners’ coding,” she said. “It’s something I never would have learned about if I hadn’t been at Archer.”

According to its website, LA MakerSpace is “a community-based non-profit organization with a mission to increase access to STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and math] education for kids and adults, regardless of ability to pay.”

“The LA group had a class for younger adults who were doing [entrepreneurship], where I got to go and teach some sixteen to twenty year-olds in Van Nuys. That was the oldest group I’ve taught, but normally [I] teach groups of elementary school students,” Heimanson said.

Both girls are involved in other areas of STEM at Archer as well. Heimanson is one of the student leaders of MathCounts, while Stone is in the Robotics club.

“After coming to Archer and using the resources that I have here, I’ve definitely learned more,” Heimanson said. “I’ve learned more about different things in math — I’ve learned more in science.”