Coding with Wonder Woman: Microsoft project to educate the next generation of programmers

In partnership with NASA, Smithsonian Learning Labs, and others, the lessons use space exploration, museums, and popular movies to teach the principles of programming.


Image: iStock/metamorworks

The demand for programming positions is expected to grow in the years ahead. A report from The Knowledge Academy determined that there will be more than one-quarter million new software development positions by 2026. However, there are potential problems with the early education computer science pipeline in the US.

Many US schools do not offer computer science courses to teach students fundamental skills in these areas. In fact, less than half of K-12 schools offer computer science in 39 states, according to a Code Advocacy Coalition's 2019 State of Computer Science Education Equity and Diversity.

On Tuesday, Microsoft, in partnership with NASA, Wonder Woman 1984, and Smithsonian Learning Labs announced a number of online educational experiences to teach students and life-long learners how to code using popular films, space exploration, and more.

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Wonder Woman 1984 and Smithsonian Learning Lab lessons

There are five Wonder Woman 1984 and the Smithsonian Learning Lab lessons. One such experience, Museum Heist, teaches participants to code using Minecraft: Education Edition. In the lesson, players explore a virtual museum and must solve various puzzles to help locate a stolen piece of art.

In Chaos Maze, players control Wonder Woman to collect artifacts throughout the Smithsonian Museum before the gameplay timer expires. During the lesson, students will learn to code and design new arcade games using block-based coding.

In another lesson, gamers must decode a secret message to reveal a Wonder Woman 1984 Easter-egg. This experience acts as an introduction to Python and requires no previous background knowledge of the programming language. Gamers are taught how to write programs and provided details pertaining to functions and variables.

In Super Quiz students are asked to build a quiz to determine their Wonder Woman 1984 character using Python. Within this lesson, students are taught the "basics of Boolean commands and conditionals" and do not need any prior computer science background to participate, according to the press release.

NASA lessons use AI, machine learning, and more

Computer scientist and entrepreneur Sarah Guthals created three NASA-inspired lessons to prep students for various spacefaring careers. The lesson "Introduction to Python for Space Exploration" does just that by providing students with "an introduction to the types of space exploration problems that Python and data science can influence."

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A learning pathway is designed to provide an introduction to machine learning and focuses on using the technology to forecast launch delays. In another learning path, students learn to design an artificial intelligence (AI) system capable of classifying various space rocks depicted in a set of photos.

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