In a darkened classroom after school, members of the coding team at Webb City Middle School are focused on the week’s assignments.

Middle school coders are ranked 10th in the current Youth Coding League standings

Bob Foos

Daniel Wade, fifth-grade teacher and coding team coach, looks over the shoulder of team member Evan Cservak. 

The coding team at Webb City Middle School is enjoying success by placing 10th so far in the Youth Coding League.

And out of more than 500 individual coders in eight states, sixth-grader Charlie Liles is in a six-way tie for first.

YCL’s purpose is to introduce fifth thru eighth graders to computer science and coding. 

Schools in southwest Missouri joined YCL last fall with funding from the Missouri Technology Corporation and Crowder College.

“Many schools have at least some computer science offerings at the high school level; far fewer are able to provide these opportunities for their younger students – and these skills,” says Stacy Dohogne Lane, director of the youth coding league. She says providing opportunities for younger students to develop coding skills is “so important because we see a ‘middle school cliff’ of girls dropping out of STEM disciplines in fifth grade, with only 27% reporting that they’re considering a career in tech, compared to 62% of boys.”

Charlie Liles is in a first-place tie in the YCL individual standings.

Webb City’s Charlie Liles is certainly going against that trend.

Discussing how the competition works while on task during a recent after-school coding session, she explained there’s a different focus each week, with written instructions and a video to get started. They use the Scratch program.

As to how she has become one of the leading coders, Liles said, “Mr. Wade has us do all of the extra lessons so we can get more points.”

Mr. Wade is Daniel Wade, a fifth-grade teacher who leads the team for 1 1/2 hours each week.

When they announced formation of the team at the beginning of the school year, Wade said, “We were blown away by the number of students who wanted to join. I had to hold tryouts. We had over 100 apply for 15 spots.” 

Selecting students for those spots was a matter of finding out if they think it’s a fun thing to do or they have a passion for it.

“The thing I like about it is that the kids learn,” Wade said. “They’re competing, sure, but they’re learning skills while they compete.”

The team’s goal is to qualify for the YCL playoffs in April.