Saturday was a morning for coding and tinkering with technology at the Nebraska Innovation Campus.

It was the second time the "Hour of Code" was held to help people of all ages learn the basics of coding through self-guided tutorials, and to get children interested in computer science.

“We wanted to show kids early on that it (coding) can be cool,” said Christina Oldfather, director of innovation and entrepreneurship with the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development.

Oldfather said the need for software developers and computer engineers is increasing. According to Code.org, there are more than 604,000 open computing jobs nationwide. And last year, only 38,175 computer science students graduated into the workforce.

“A lot of start-up companies have difficulty finding the talent,” she said.

Some people who struggle with math are quick to shy away from coding, said Brent David, a software developer with Agilx who also served as a mentor during the event.

“If they’re worried about the math, this is the perfect place to be,” he said. “The tutorials really stay away from the math component. They make it fun.”

Some of the tutorials, which were developed by Code.org, featured popular characters from movies like "Star Wars" and Disney’s "Frozen." And so the kids were basically playing a video game, David said, but they were also learning essential problem-solving skills.

But families didn't just spend their time behind a computer screen. There was also an interactive tech fair, which allowed the families to get a hands-on experience with robots and other wearable technology.

Organizations that helped host the event also had booths with information on their projects and career opportunities, such as AIM, Lincoln Public Schools, UNL Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Turbine Flats, #LNK Coding Women and CSTA Nebraska.

Susan Prabulos, a computer science teacher at Meadow Lane Elementary, led a workshop on the Dot and Dash Robots created by Wonder Workshop. Using a coding app on a tablet, the kids were tasked with navigating their robots through a maze.

“This just brings it to life for the kids,” she said. “They can see it right in front of them, instead of just seeing it on a screen.”

Reach the writer at cdunn@journalstar.com or 402-473-2655. 

Follow him on Twitter @ConorWDunn.

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