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South Dakota’s First CoderDojo to launch in Madison

March 30, 2015

The word dojo often conjures up images of karate and judo training halls full of students training and dreaming of becoming masters. The Madison CoderDojo is really not unlike the martial arts learning temple it shares a name with, but with addition of programming and computers. It is a global network of free, volunteer-led, independent, community-based programming clubs for young people. The Madison CoderDojo is the first in South Dakota, with the closest dojos in major cities like Minneapolis or Omaha.

The CoderDojo movement, which began in Ireland in 2011, has grown to over 550 dojos in 55 countries. It is a free, not-for-profit organization that really aims to inspire young people to learn code, a skill that is becoming more critical in this era. The CoderDojo wants to make learning code a fun and sociable experience that involves students and volunteers along with encouraging parental participation.

"This is something I have been talking about doing since around November.  Through the amazing support of the school district and faculty at DSU, I was finally able to get it off the ground.  I fell in love with programming through mentors almost 30 years ago, and this gives me a way to do the same for middle and high school students," said Rob Honomichl, DSU professor and creator of the Madison CoderDojo.

"I really wanted to open the Dojo on April 1st because of the significance in computers that date has, but March 31st is just as good."

The Madison CoderDojo plans to launch on Tuesday, March 31, open from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday until May 19. It’s an open learning experience which allows students in grades 6 through 12 to come for however long they want and have fun learning about coding. The Madison Middle School computer lab will be the location of the dojo with access to computers, high-speed Internet and other resources to help students learn Python programming for the rest of the school year.

"For this year we will focus on middle and high school students, but as this movement grows I can't wait to start working with students in the elementary school," said Honomichl.

This cooperation between the Madison School District and Dakota State University will bring faculty in all things computers to the CoderDojo giving students a chance to learn from industry experts with no cost to the students.

"Through many of the projects I have worked on through DSU, one theme keeps coming up and that is the lack of programming inside of K-12 schools,” said Honomichl. “As a parent of a 15 and 7 year old, this really worries me.  I can't wait to work with the next generation of programmers and cyber sleuths."

To find out more information, visit madisoncoderdojo.ninja or email Rob Honomichl at rob@madisoncoderdojo.ninja.  You can follow the Dojo on Twitter at @madcoderdojo.