The hype for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has become so monumentally huge that it’s a struggle to think of a field that hasn’t been affected by the release of this seventh installment. Everything from Disney theme parks to department stores to major food brands to clothing lines have all been flooded with including tie-ins for this new movie.
Perhaps the most noble piece of publicity for this movie, however, has been from Code.org, a non-profit organization established with the intent of encouraging students to learn computer programming. Since 2013, Code.org has run an “Hour of Code Challenge” which entices school students to complete short computer programming tutorials in order to build their game. Last year, they teamed up with Disney to bring characters from Frozen into the challenge as a way to draw kids. Teaming up with Disney again this year, it was only natural that they would bring Star Wars characters into the mix.
This particular hour took place at 6:30-7:30 on December 7th 2015 with the main event happening at Disney Interactive in Glendale. After all the kids that were attending this special event arrived, they played an introduction from Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Kennedy explained in the video that code is everywhere; from the movies you watch to the games you play to the websites you browse and that without it, updating your status or posting picture wouldn’t be possible. It was through code, she explained, that made the characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens into a reality. Rachel Rose, an engineer from Industrial Light & Magic, reiterated this point in the video, saying code ending up giving them answers to questions such as “How would BB-8 be able to engage with live-actors in a believable and life-like way?”
The challenge started by asking kids to build their own Star Wars game. By using blocks in place of text, kids would have to link multiple blocks together to make BB-8 collect scraps for Rey. Placing these blocks together in a workspace would make BB-8 move around in a playing field kids to collect scraps. Placing these commands together would give children the basic idea of programming.
Once the hour started, the kids seemed to have no problem building blocks and being able to build their games starring the loveable new droid.
After the hour was complete, two programmers from Disney Interactive came to the stage to explain how learning of code has really helped guide and shape their careers. Additionally, they spoke on how they really wished there was an Hour Of Code that existed in their youth to help them learn the basics of coding even earlier and encourage them to pursue career paths that involve coding.
After the hour was complete, the kids were rewarded for their participation in this global event by being given free meals, access to the Star Wars version Disney Infinity 3.0 and even were even given a complimentary Yoda figure. If that wasn’t enough, a final surprise was later revealed: a BB-8 cake!
Now look at this photo of these accomplished gamers with Chewie and R2-D2 and tell me this doesn’t recall the famous throne room scene at the end of the original Star Wars! This is easily one of the most optimistic experiences regarding our future generations that I’ve personally experienced in quite some time. One thing you can’t deny about today’s children: the force is with them!