Last week, 23 students and 4 faculty and staff from Boise State University’s computer science department participated, during CS Education Week, in one of the largest education events in history: The Hour of Code.
Put on by Code.org as part of Computer Science Ed Week (Dec. 8-14), over 75 million students have participated in Hour of Code by spending one hour learning computer science through online tutorials and volunteer driven events held across the world. In the Treasure Valley, the Boise State ACM-W student club and IDoCode program helped organize a group of Boise State CS students and faculty to facilitate several events that reached out to over 1,250 local K-12 students. Some of these events were in collaboration with dozens of volunteers from the local tech industry.
The Boise State ACM-W student club supports, celebrates and advocates for the involvement of women in computer science. Boise State ACM-W President Kelsey Suyehira indicated that this mission was one of the reasons they were able to field the largest group of Boise State student volunteers, along with their faculty advisors Marissa Schmidt and Sole Pera:
“[It’s] really important that young girls see other women computer scientists. This makes it easier for them to picture themselves as computer scientists. I personally think that this is one of the most important things for girls and women of all ages, to have mentors in the field that they can look up to.”
Additional student volunteers included eight local high school teachers who are part of Boise State’s IDoCode project, a CS10K project funded by a three year $1 million dollar National Science Foundation (NSF) grant# 1339403. The goal of this project is to provide well-trained computer science teachers in Treasure Valley high schools and this grant provides full funding of tuition for teachers accepted into Boise State’s Master of Science in STEM Education (with Computer Science emphasis) program. They were joined by Boise State CS faculty member and PI on the grant, Amit Jain, and CS10K program coordinator Ernie Covelli, who joined the IDoCode program after a distinguished career at HP.
While the 2014 Computer Science Education Week has passed, the effort to inspire K-12 students to take an interest in computer science continues. Code.org offers many resources that go “beyond the hour” and because of the efforts of these volunteers, many students are already digging deeper. The day after South Jr. High’s Hour of Code event, which was attended by 650 students and organized by Newt Antoniuk (panucation.com), librarian Mary Taylor had at least five students in the library who commented to her about additional coding activities they participated in after going home from school that night. One girl mentioned that she had already completed 1,000 lines of code!
The IDoCode program faculty and students continue to reach out to K-12 community as well. Susan Evers, a teacher at Amity Elementary, received training at a workshop by the IDoCode project members. Subsequently she has integrated computer science into her 6th grade class. As part of the CS Ed Week, the IDoCode project members visited their classrooms to show advanced programming techniques at the request of the students. It was fascinating to see 6th grade students asking questions about obstacle avoidance and machine learning for their Finch robots (purchased with a grant from Micron Technology).
These experiences are a testament to the impact of introducing CS to young students and the importance of Computer Science Education Week which could not have happened without great volunteers like those from Boise State and around the valley.