The nonprofit coding education organization Code.org has released a Star Wars-themed tutorial to make computer science learning fun. In particular, its aim is to reach out to young girls who are often not provided with the same technology education opportunities as boys.
Students who take the hour-long tutorial are taught by Princess Leia or the new heroine Rey, and learn how to make Star Wars games and program the droids R2-D2, C-3PO, and BB-8. Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code, as the tutorial is named, also teaches general logic and problem-solving skills along with basic computer programming.
The tutorial, which Katie Collins of CNet reports will appear in more than 40 languages, was funded by Star Wars: Force for Change, a philanthropic initiative that aims to use the franchise's popularity for global good.
By featuring female characters in the tutorial as role models, they hope to encourage girls to view themselves as technologically capable and thereby eventually fix the unequal gender ratio in technical careers.
Code.org partnered with Lucasfilm and Disney to make the tutorial. Lucasfilm's president Kathleen Kennedy, senior R&D engineer Rachel Rose, and senior creative producer at Walt Disney Imagineering Charita Carter also appear in the lessons to guide students with short video lectures.
Kennedy said in a statement:
For generations, Star Wars has sparked kids' curiosity and imagination, and we hope the appeal of characters like Princess Leia and Rey will help fuel greater participation in science and math, especially among girls, around the world. Computer science has helped shape our legacy and changed the way movies are made, which is why programs like the Hour of Code are so important to us.
As mentioned by Kennedy, the tutorial is part of the Hour of Code series, which allows kids to learn concepts in hour-long spans, writes Jessica Guynn of USA Today.
The final version of Building a Galaxy with Code will be available December 7th in time for Computer Science Education Week. This will be Code.org's third annual Hour of Code campaign. Last year, they collaborated with Disney Interactive to make a Frozen-themed tutorial with Anna and Elsa, which attracted 13 million students, writes Fritz Gleyo of Tech Times.
More than 100 million students in 180 countries have done an Hour of Code tutorial, including one-third of the students in US schools.
Disney will be donating $100,000 to Code.org to help develop after-school computer science programs in US schools, reports the Star Wars website. One lucky class will win a trip to San Francisco for a tour of the visual effects technology used in the new Star Wars movie.