This article is more than 4 years old.

Kids send code to the cosmos from the Halifax Central Library

Kids code messages for astronauts Tuesday as part of Astro Pi: Mission Zero project

4 min read
caption Kierra D’penha, 8, coded a message for astronauts at the Halifax Central Library on Tuesday.
Andrea McGuire

It’s Tuesday afternoon and Eloise Lacroix, 12, is searching for a space joke she can send to the International Space Station (ISS).

Lacroix took part in the first Code In The Stars workshop led by Kids Code Jeunesse at the Halifax Central Library. Participants created a message or image they wanted to display for astronauts in the space station, and learned to code a simple program showing that message.

Every message or image needs to run through the program in 30 seconds or less. This caused a problem for Lacroix and her seven-year-old sibling Armand Lacroix, who worked together as the “Astro Coders.”

Eloise’s first joke, “What do planets like to read? Comet books!” ran over the limit at 35 seconds. At first, she found it tough to find a joke shorter than that. But in the end, Eloise landed on a zinger short and sweet enough to make the cut: “What do stars buy things with? Starbucks!”

Related stories

caption Armand Lacroix, 7, is coding a joke for astronauts on the International Space Station.
Andrea McGuire

Eight-year-old Kierra D’penha, on the other hand, decided on a greeting for the astronauts: “High from space.”

“H-I-G-H,” she explained, “because space is high above earth.”

D’penha said she finds coding fascinating.

“I really like it because I love computers and gadgets, and I think it’s interesting. Probably if I was younger I wouldn’t be able to understand all of these complicated things, but I think now that I’m older — I mean, I’m still in Grade 3,” she laughed.

“But now that I’m older, I can understand. And it’s just really fun. I like running it, seeing how it looks.”

Many participants said they love the creativity of coding. Yerim Lee, 11, said she once coded a game where a cat walked down the street with a basket, catching eggs dropped from the sky by a chicken. She said she likes coding “because I can make something on my own.”

Yerim and her sister Yubin are coding a golden cat for the ISS.

caption Sisters Yubin Lee, 9, and Yerim Lee, 11, pose with the cat they’re coding as part of Astro Pi: Mission Zero.
Andrea McGuire

Kids learning to ‘express themselves through code’

Kids Code Jeunesse, a national non-profit devoted to helping kids learn digital skills, offered this workshop as part of an international, collaborative project called Astro Pi: Mission Zero.

For the third year in a row, kids under the age of 14 from Canada, European Space Agency member states, Slovenia and Malta are coding cosmic messages for the ISS as part of the project. In return, everyone who takes part receives a certificate saying the exact time and location of the space station when their code was displayed.

Susan Sharpe works as the Nova Scotia facilitator and community developer for Kids Code Jeunesse and led the workshop. She said code is “so important for almost everything we do in our lives these days.”

“We use computer programs so often,” said Sharpe. “So it’s good for kids to be able to understand it a little bit better. And if they write code, they’ll have a better understanding of how code works and how things like Facebook and the internet work.”

She also pointed out most science is done through computers now, so coding knowledge is important for understanding how that works.

Kids Code Jeunesse programs usually have an element of creativity, Sharpe explained. Once kids figure out a coding program, they’re usually very excited to show their friends and other people, she said, because “it’s so much fun.”

caption Susan Sharpe shows kids the ropes of coding messages for the ISS.
Andrea McGuire

Ryan Tobin, a media and technology library assistant at the Halifax Central Library, helped with the workshop. Tobin began learning to code when he started his job.

“If I’m the teacher, I’m only a couple of steps ahead of them,” he said. “But I really enjoy it.”

The Code In The Stars workshop marked the first meeting of the library’s Kids Code Club, which runs every Tuesday afternoon this month. Next week, Sharpe will lead part two of the workshop.

On Feb. 15, kids under 14 will have a second chance to code messages for astronauts. Sharpe is offering another Astro Pi workshop through Kids Code Jeunesse called Space Coding at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library.

Share this

About the author

Andrea McGuire

Andrea McGuire is a journalism student from Newfoundland. Before coming to King's College, she completed a master's degree in folklore at Memorial...

Have a story idea?

Join the conversation

  1. S

    Sang N

    Interesting initiative which can be replicated elsewhere. In what is increasingly becoming a digital economy, coding skills will be an important aspect of children's education.
Comments closed.