Protons brings project-based coding to students in Alexandria, Egypt
By Youssef Fares
Across the globe from where Scratch is developed lives “Protons,” an educational program based in Alexandria, Egypt, where students, ages 12–18, learn the basics of computer science, electrical engineering, and computational thinking.
The Protons project is led by a team of engineering students whose mission is to bring project-based learning experiences to middle and high school students. We seek to create an environment where students can gain a set of skills and tools, and go on to build something entirely their own.
At Protons, we are inspired by the spirit and ideas of the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group. We use Scratch to introduce students (or “protons,” as they like to be called) to coding. Whether they go on to build robots, smart homes, websites, mobile apps, or games during the six-month program, all coding begins with Scratch.
Scratch allows us to introduce CS concepts like abstraction, decomposition, and algorithm design — which seem like really scary technical words at first glance — in a really simple way. When you code in a language as simple and quickly-productive as Scratch, it really hooks the student and allows them time to process and understand the concepts.
We value Scratch’s simple and playful platform because it encourages tinkering with computers while removing the fear of coding. It makes programming fun — as it ought to be!
Last spring, “protons” created their own versions of Chrome’s renowned T. Rex Runner with Scratch. For many, it was their first time programming a project.
One of the participants, Abdelrahman Orief, took his Scratch programming to the next level by making a Scratch project for his geography class and even introduced the platform to his fellow classmates.
Another student even wished one of the Protons instructors a happy birthday with a Scratch project. (Thanks, Ragai — it still makes us smile.)
Anyone on our team will tell you that the real heart of the Protons program lies in the moment when a student ends up with something built entirely by themselves. Scratch plays a major role in those moments; what it does for students’ confidence and enthusiasm for STEAM is invaluable.
For five years now, every spring, a team of educators, marketeers, reporters and content writers, outreach and graphics volunteers under the IEEE Alexandria Student Branch, bring Protons to life. The program provides quality education to students of all backgrounds who have a passion to learn and build exciting things.
The organization and project also help bring a volunteering culture, as students go on to contribute to the Protons program as instructors and program managers.
Learn more at the Protons website.