Basketball + Coding = Hoops & Loops!

Bry LeBlanc
08 November 2018

When we think of coding, our understanding generally gravitates towards STEM-fields — science, technology, engineering or mathematics. But there is so much more to code. As a creative activity that applies to so many aspects of today’s digital reality, coding can be linked to any topic of interest — including sports.

To demonstrate the versatility of code, Kids Code Jeunesse teamed up with NBA Canada this year and hosted two workshops, one on each Canadian coast. The basketball-themed community events took place in Vancouver and Montreal to align with the NBA Canada Series exhibition games presented by Bell this fall. Hoops & Loops was funded by SSENSE in Montreal and by the $6 million dollar commitment from the federal government’s CanCode program.

To ensure that as many kids as possible got the opportunity to try their hand at coding, we chose to run each event in a gym of a local, underserved school. For our workshop in Vancouver on Sept. 29, we collaborated with Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School, the school’s ROARS anti-racism and anti-bullying initiative, as well as mentors from the Tupper Leadership program that guided young students through the event. Montreal’s workshop took place on Oct. 9 at Westmount High, a school with ties to the Trevor Williams Kids Foundation — one of our community partners that works with the school on the Chill Zone program, which encourages self-expression among youth in an effort to combat bullying.

The added bonus: both Tupper and Westmount High have really strong and inspiring basketball cultures, which made the workshops that much more fun to offer.

Both events unfolded in the same exciting way: students from each city got the chance to meet with NBA Legends, interact with the Raptors’ mascot, move alongside team dancers, and of course, experience coding.

The local gyms were split in two. One half was an energetic melting pot of basketball, music, and dance where the students got to mingle with the former NBA players and follow dance routines to the beats of a DJ. Then the students rotated to try out the second half of the event — four basketball-inspired coding stations set up by KCJ that introduced the kids to unplugged activities, animation and hardware.

In Montreal, there were four coding stations. The first station had kids taking part in a Scratch webcam game, where students got to play with a digital ball while the computer camera tracked their movement, ultimately creating an Augmented Reality basket game. In a similar vein, the second station offered students the chance to play micro:bit Virtual Basketball, a team game where a “ball” was passed from one micro:bit to another using the bluetooth radio. Third came micro:bit Swish-Switch, where two teams competed with one another in a code-fueled shootout game. The final activity was a Binary Shootout, where students got to learn the basics of binary code through the way points are traditionally counted in a basketball game (graphic below).

We were so happy to hear that the students felt inspired after full, fun-filled days of hoops and loops. In a letter to KCJ, one student from Vancouver said that the event flipped her outlook on coding.

“I absolutely loved the techniques in coding and how easy some of it is,” said Macy Nguyen. “After your visit, I learned many new things and new interests. My first impression of coding was ‘Oh it looks okay…,’ but that was when I hadn’t learned the fun things about it, so thank you for introducing it again this year. The presentation made myself get into coding and I really enjoy coding now.”

Addressing the kids at Westmount High, NBA Legend Jerome ”Junkyard Dog” Williams said that coding is universal.

“You may or may not use it later on, but it exposes you to the possibilities — because coding is in everything,” he said.

We completely agree with you Jerome, and would also like to add that coding is not only in everything, but for everyone!