Sitting on the floor of a Barger Academy classroom, De'arie Craddock typed commands into an iPad to control how a robot moved across a grid.
De'arie and a second-grade classmate programmed the robot to stop at specific squares on the grid, giggling with excitement each time the robot did what they said.
"Now we need it to turn right," said De'arie, as she typed the commands. "Now forward!"
Next to the girls, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., was watching another group of students program a similar robot. He visited three area schools Friday to highlight the importance of expanding K-12 computer science education.
"Workforce development relies on computer science literacy," Fleischmann told the Times Free Press. " We want to develop the future of this country."
There is bipartisan support for a specific line item in the U.S. Department of Education's budget for computer science literacy, Fleischmann said. The move would not necessarily increase funding, he added, but would designate specific funds to expand computer science programs at the local, state and federal level.
Fleischmann also toured a computer science class at The Howard School on Friday morning and wrapped up his tour at STEM School Chattanooga, where he held a roundtable discussion about the impact of computer science education.
At Howard, students worked on a variety of online coding projects, showing Fleischmann and an entourage of onlookers their work.
Marietta Song, a 10th-grader, was practicing coding by instructing a character to draw a geometric shape.
After typing a string of commands, Marietta would pause and test the code, then she would go back and make slight edits to what she had done.
"See here, I need to change this a few degrees," she said, before quickly making the changes.
Nearby, Wilmer Perez, also a 10th-grader, was using a remote control to drive the robot he built and programmed. Wilmer and his classmates are working to program a robot that moves on its own without a remote.
"All of this is pretty fun for me," he said.
Fleischmann and his fellow lawmakers were on break from the Capitol this week, and many are visiting their home districts. But none of the region's Republican representatives or senators held public town halls this week.
A handful of protesters gathered outside of Barger on Friday, asking Fleischmann to attend the town hall they were hosting later that afternoon at the Chattanooga Public Library, but Fleischmann did not engage with them or attend.
Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.