SIOUX CITY | Gabe Bear Comes Out, 10, always enjoyed playing Xbox video games, but he is also learning to make similar systems of his very own.
"This is a lot of fun," the Irving Elementary School fourth-grader said while crashing simulated cars in a "Lazer Racer" game. "I get to choose the cars I control."
Gabe is one of the students participating in a computer coding tutorial taught at the Boy's Club of Sioux City since January.
Boy's Club volunteer Shaun Broyhill said a special program for coding was installed on seven computers he donated to the club at 823 Pearl St.
"The program is called 'Tynker' and it allows kids to learn basic computer programming and coding skills," he explained.
Broyhill said the program -- which allows users to create their own games by using more than 100 step-by-step tutorials -- is geared toward third-grade students and above.
"The third grade seems to be the right time to begin working with kids on their computer skills," Broyhill, a senior software engineer at Wilson Trailer Company, acknowledged. "Coincidentally, that was the same grade that I got involved in computers, right here at the Boy's Club."
It's true, Broyhill was a Boy's Club member long before he became a volunteer.
"I spent a good part of my childhood here," the 36-year-old said.
Currently working toward an Iowa State University master's degree in human computer interaction, Broyhill said he's been testing the cognitive effects on the programming class on Boy's Club members.
"We've already seen a significant improvement in their reading comprehension as well as in their math comprehension," he said, adding that the program is slated to expand this summer.
Mostly, Broyhill is anxious to change the way kids solve problems.
"There's a thought process that computer programmers have that can be applied to other vocations," he said.
That will come in handy for J.T. Crawford, 9, who is more interested in pigskin than he is in programming.
"I want to be a football player with the Denver Broncos when I grow up," the Spalding Park Elementary School third-grader proclaimed, "but (making video games) is OK, too."
Like J.T., Julian Perez, 10, preferred athletics over coding.
"I love rugby," the Hunt Elementary School fourth-grader noted.
Still, Julian wouldn't mind learning more about computer games.
"It's interesting coming up with (video game) characters and giving them things to do," he said, peering intently into a computer screen. "It's fun."