Explore the Future of K-12 Esports: Competitive Coding

Esports has gained recognition as a legitimate growth opportunity for students since 2018 when the National Federation of State Highschool Associations deemed Esports an official sport (NEA.org). Many competitions are open to students, and several colleges offer Esports scholarships. Now there is another branch in Esports growing in popularity: competitive coding. The mainstream gamification of coding is also gaining in popularity in K-12 education.

K-12 Competitive Coding Competitions

Coding competitions are available for all skill levels. One popular competition is theICode Global Hackathon, the world’s largest K-12 coding competition. This event lets students benchmark their coding skills against students from around the world. Plus, the competition boasts over $150,000 in prizes. The competition is live and interactive on a gamified platform where students solve different problems with a code-test-debug-run format to transition to new stages. Skill levels range from elementary to mastery-level proficiency. If a student’s interest is in back-end coding, there are competitions for those skills too. CodeCombat AI League runs its competitions on back-end programming strategy and turns competitive coding into a watchable spectacle. Whether students get involved in front or back-end coding, this gamification of coding can inject fun into learning programming. Looking for more reasons to have your students compete? Read our past blog post on “6 Benefits of Robotics Competitions.”

Get Students Started Coding Competitively

Another well-known competition is the MIT Scratch Game Competition which is open to all ages and is not a live competition but a series of challenges to complete at your own pace. These challenges can help students build their confidence through challenges that don’t pit their skills against those of other students. Keep in mind that not all students thrive on competing directly against other students. For those students that thrive in competitive programming, it’s worth knowing that tech giants, including Facebook, Google, and Amazon, have recruited candidates through competitive professional-level programming contests

Gamifying Your K-12 Coding Program

Gamification of your coding program can make coding accessible and interactive for students. Coding robots are an effective way to give students hands-on coding applications. There are many coding robots available on the market. Below are some companies and their programmable coding robots worth taking a look at that can shape beginner to advanced-level coders.

Primo – Send early learners on a screenless coding adventure with Cubetto. This friendly wooden robot will teach students as young as three the basics of computer programming through adventure and hands-on play.

iRobot Education – Start students coding with the Root rt1 and Root rt0 robots. Good for beginners (6+), these robots let students begin with graphical code before advancing to hybrid code, then full-text code. Once students are more advanced and can move into robotics, you can transition them to the Create 3 robot build for learning ROS 2. Not sure what ROS 2 is? You can find out by reading our blog post “Coding 101: What is the Robot Operating System (ROS 2)?” by clicking here.

  • Wonder Workshop – Virtual Dash Robots can democratize coding at your school. You can purchase Dash robots for your classroom and assign projects students can do at home with Virtual Dash robots. Students will thrive from on-hands, project-based learning that they can complete in and out of class. Dash is perfect for ages six and up.

pi-top – pi-top’s hardware is a modular, portable, programmable device that brings Computer Science into the physical world with robotics. With pi-top, you’ll be able to teach beginning coding to advanced AI. Their newest model is their Pi-top 4 and you can think of it as a portable brain based on popular Raspberry Pi tech that students can attach and re-use for different projects

Bonus! Both Wonder Workshop and iRobot Education support their coding competitions featuring their K-12 coding robots. You can find more about them below.

When competitive coding opportunities correlate to confidence and skill-building, it’s even more critical to get more students involved in STEM and coding. When schools in poorer areas are still under-resourced, ESSER funds provide an unprecedented opportunity to increase access to STEM for underserved and minority populations. Complementing hands-on learning opportunities and student participation in STEM non-profit competitions will help create a robust coding program.

Have your students participated in a coding competition? Share with us in the comments below!






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