Chess and coding instruction going virtual in October

For years Dr. Earl Glenn has watched boys and girls learn to play chess and witnessed the positive impact the game has had on their lives.

“Chess teaches you to stop and think before you act,” said Glenn. “Chess teaches you to not only think one or two moves ahead, sometimes four and five moves ahead. Once a person learns to play chess, they automatically begin to think of what are the choices at the time based on the circumstances.”

Learning to play chess fosters mental disciple, according to experts.

Glenn, who has been instrumental in setting up chess programs for youth in DeKalb County and overseas, said he doesn’t want those benefits to be diminished due to coronavirus shutdowns and restrictions on gatherings.

Through Unconditional Love for Children, a nonprofit of which Glenn is chairman of the board, organizers are planning to begin offering online chess, coding and math instruction to local schools in October. Two schools have signed up for the program and another has expressed interest.

Organizers are hoping to attract additional schools and interested youth.

The program is an effort to provide additional resources to students, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, according to Adriana Higgins, executive director of ULC’s programs.

She described coding as a “language in and of itself” and said more young students should be introduced to it as it fosters logical thinking, academic success and opens doors to future opportunities.

Experts say learning to code helps develop analytical skills.

Glenn said excelling in chess and coding can lead to scholarships and college acceptance.

He added that he realized the benefits of learning chess years ago and sought to share it with younger generations.

Glenn recruited others who were passionate about the game and kicked off a chess program in 2012 at Nick’s Barber Shop in Stone Mountain. The program has expanded to various locations, including a halfway house for teen girls, Gresham Park Recreation Center, a church, prep school and the Glenn Center. For 24 years—until this year due to the pandemic—they also held the annual Beau Hardeman Memorial Chess Tournament.

In March when activities began to shut down due to COVID-19, program leaders shifted to an online format—holding weekly invitation-only chess competitions on Thursday evenings. The purpose of the free weekly challenges is to give young people opportunities to play one another and learn the consequences of the moves they make, according to Barry Gray, coordinator with the program.

Gray said 10-15 young people participate in the weekly competitions.
ULC’s chess instructor Clovis Simons said both chess and coding “provide the mental discipline in the long term that can be something that makes it easier to find opportunities.”

Calvin Espy, a retired engineer who provides ULC’s coding instruction, said coding requires individuals to be analytical and creative and helps to keep young people interested in science and math.

“People really love the products of coding, children especially,” said Espy. “I never met a child that didn’t like video games. If you like video games, why don’t you learn how to create them.”

Girls and boys challenge each other on the chess board.

“There’s so much around us involving coding, just about any product…,” said Espy, rattling off products such as TVs, refrigerators, microwave ovens, cell phones and airplanes.

“Coding in these electronic devices tell the device how to operate,” he said.
Espy added that there are “zillions” of coding jobs, adding that his niece works a coding job for The New York Times.

For more information, contact Gray at or (770) 652-2826.


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