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'Star Wars' characters are teaching kids to code

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Code.org has teamed up with Disney for a Star Wars-themed 'Hour of Code' project to teach kids computer programming. Given the hype around The Force Awakens, that's quite a coup for the organization and is a good way for Disney to remind kids that the film industry employs a lot of coders (and sell them merchandise, of course). "Hundreds of computer engineers work together to make film like The Force Awakens," said Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy. As such, Lucasfilm and Disney loaned its characters to the effort, produced several short video tutorials and also donated $100,000 to help Code.org expand to more US schools.

Code.org wants to get more kids into coding and make the field more diverse, so the beginner coding tutorial feature female characters Rey and Princess Leia. "Having these two strong heroines with the robots is a great message, and the type of diversity we're trying to spread," Code.org founder Hadi Partovi told Wired. Beginners will use block-style programming to create a browser game featuring droid BB-8, and after completing that hour-long challenge, can attempt more advanced Java programming.

So far, Code.org's enrolled around 5 million kids, including 2 million girls and 2 million minorities, thanks to support from luminaries like US President Obama. Last year, the group teamed with Disney to create a Frozen themed Hour of Code, an effort that drew some 13 million users. This year, with interest in Star Wars through the roof, the group expects to draw four times as many kids.

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