By Dr. Nathaniel Sutter, with Natalie Romero

La Sierra University is hosting a series of four free coding workshops designed for academy and high school students, as well as those with no prior coding experience. Under the leadership of several professors in the departments of biology and mathematics, attendees will learn to use Python—a “first language” for coding used by over eight million people across the globe.

The world of coding is a complex and technical one that requires careful thinking and a willingness to solve problems—it is also a fun and rewarding skill set that is proving more and more essential in today’s STEM-focused job market. Though getting started in coding can be difficult, the aim of the workshops is to teach the Python language in an engaging gaming environment. 

Python is just one of many programming languages, but is a favorite among amateurs and professionals alike for its speed, readability, ease of use, and efficiency. A high-level language that is also friendly for beginners, Python is used by scientists, engineers, and data scientists for work in research, business, and finance. According to the Tiobe index of programming languages, Python is currently ranked third right after the industrial heavyweights C and Java.

“Fortunately, we can learn Python the fun way by working on games with graphics,” says professor of mathematics Dr. Jon Vanderwerff. “In the workshops, we’ll explore the logic of the game world but we’ll also spend some time drawing and customizing pixel art for our 2-D games. Watching your code move around the screen is awesome!” 

One of the workshop games in the works is “Eko Explore,” in which students will write the code that enables La Sierra’s mascot to find rainforest geckos that Dr. Lee Grismer and his son Dr. Jesse Grismer have scientifically described in Southeast Asia. Their work, which has led to forest preservation efforts and increased knowledge of reptiles and amphibians, also provides an avenue in which La Sierra students can engage in first-hand field research. 

The Python workshops—which are one result of recent informal meetings between various teams at La Sierra that aim to create engaging academic experiences, provide professional development opportunities, and improve data collection/analysis in order to better support both new and returning students—will be held every Sunday in November, 2020 from 2-4 pm. 

To sign up for these free workshops, visit