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On the ground floor of the conference center at Innovation Campus, excited children sat at computers learning and practicing coding Saturday morning. On the floor above them, booths boasting virtual reality, 3D printers and remote-operated robots enthralled others.

More than 800 students and parents registered for the fifth annual Hour of Code event and the accompanying Interactive Tech Fair.

In the coding room, several parents said it was a unique opportunity for the kids to learn in exciting ways.

"The coding part of it is always fun because it seems like they always come up with new designs, new ways to do it, new ways to learn," said Rusty Dawkins of Lincoln. "The kids don't even know they're learning, so that's a highlight as a dad, and it's fun for the kids, so that's a highlight for them."

Dawkins, who works as a social media manager for the Arbor Day Foundation, marveled at the efforts schools are taking to give his kids, third-grader Bryce and first-grader Gillian,  opportunities to grow with technology.

"It's kind of neat to watch what our schools are doing," Dawkins said. "They go to Morley Elementary and I've been in their room and they have MacBooks everywhere, Chromebooks in every room. This is becoming almost as integrated in school as English, science and math classes."

On the second floor, children wandered through the tech fair, stopping to take advantage of stations offering hands-on tests of technology.

In one corner, students navigated robots through obstacle courses. Across the room, others waited to try their hand at a virtual-reality simulator that would let participants attempt different tasks in different job settings.

Callan Scribner, 8, tried the convenience store program, which consisted of fulfilling food orders by cooking virtual hot dogs and filling artificial cups with slushies.

Callan, who says he wants to be a software engineer when he grows up, saw the event as a cool way to learn about the technology he hopes to one day use regularly.

"I came to learn new stuff about coding," he said. "It was crazy, you could overcook hot dogs and eat junk food."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or wstone@journalstar.com.

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