Chevron engineers help make coding fun at Richmond High

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How do you take a technical topic, such as coding, and make it fun and exciting for youth? Students at Richmond High School (RHS), thanks in part to support from two Chevron engineers, are discovering that the introduction of robotic remote-control cars definitely does the trick.

It began when Vivien Macnguyen and Albert Hwang, both engineers at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, volunteered with the RHS Engineering Academy earlier this year to help implement a coding program. Inspired by the interest from students, the pair decided to create a summer program, in partnership with the FIRST Robotics Team 841.

The goal is to teach a new kind of coding language, Python, through interactive projects utilizing the Raspberry Pi, an affordable credit-card-sized single-board computer.

In addition to giving their time, Macnugyen and Hwang contributed $2,000 to the program through the Chevron Humankind fund, a company-sponsored program that matches financial contributions made by employees and provides grants for volunteer time. The funds were used to purchase remote-control mini cars and robotics equipment for the summer program.

The Richmond Standard dropped by earlier this week to discover more than a dozen youths taking part in the program, with all students well on their way to completing their remote-operated cars — and absorbing the coding knowledge to control them. The six-week program wraps up later this month with a festive celebration and lots of remote-control car racing.

Students from RHS, HELMS Middle School, Manzanita Middle School, and Making Waves Academy are part of this summer program.

“It has been extremely rewarding to witness the students’ genuine enthusiasm for the projects in the program,” Macnguyen told the Standard. “These students choose to come in and learn during summer vacation, so we want to make sure that we do our best to continue supporting their interest in STEM while making it a lot of fun at the same time.”

The program is supported by RHS engineering teacher Jose Cebrian Marquez and FIRST Robotics Team coordinator Luciano Del Rio, plus a crowd-funding effort on DonorsChoose.org that helped raise the funding for the Raspberry Pi needed for the projects.

Macnguyen and Hwang are working to expand the program to other schools in the community. In addition, they have uploaded program resources and lessons to an online site. They can also be contacted with any inquiries at CurricuPi@gmail.com.

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