We at Bio::Neos like to be involved with events that can promote computer science education within our local community and statewide. That's why I get so excited every year leading up to Computer Science Education Week. This global event is a great time to volunteer in the effort of bringing computational thinking to every student's classroom, and to encourage others around you to get involved as well. I have never turned down a request to participate in a CSEdWeek event, and always have a blast getting in front of the kids.
This year during the week that recognizes the contributions of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, I was asked to help with 3 events:
- Explore IT Day, organized by the Kirkwood Workplace Learning Connection
- An Hour of Code event at the University of Iowa College of Engineering organized by the Engineering Student Council
- A full day of Hour of Code for all 700+ of the students at my daughter's elementary school, Garner Elementary
I have been actively participating with CSEdWeek since 2015 when I first stumbled upon the information surrounding Hour of Code and put myself on the volunteer list. Hour of Code is a great starting point for computer science introduction, as students as young as kindergarten can be taught the basic concepts behind computational thinking. The activities are mostly well designed and easy to navigate with minimal training, and the content is built to pique the interest of younger students so it is always fun to see the excitement that have as they work through logical problems solving based on their favorite games and characters. And I strongly believe that these hands-on interactions with industry professionals can deeply affect the students and hopefully push our community towards achieving some of the goals set out by our local economic development groups.
As always, this year's events were a blast! Code.org had a theme of creativity and expression through dance this year and we ran with that at each of these events. We taught kids about algorithms and loops through one of the "unplugged" activities and at every event, I found myself dancing with a group of kids and adults (sometimes even doing "the floss", yikes!). I had an opportunity to answer some questions about Computer Science, show of the internals of a computer, and inspire a few young students to explore CS in their future. It's a fun way to give back to the community, and seeing the energy and excitement from these kids always gives me a big boost of energy as well. Everyone wins!
I'd like to extend a big thank you to Carole Hebl and Workplace Learning Connection for organizing Explore IT Day, Alexandria Feldmeier and the Engineering Student Council for organizing the UI event, and Gary Vogt and Matt Lapka for helping me with the Garner event.
I encourage any industry professional that uses technology in their career to connect with their local schools and offer to participate in a CSEdWeek or other Hour of Code event. I've found that many of our local employers are very supportive of this type of community involvement, some even offering incentives. If you haven't ever participated in a volunteer event such as this, contact me with your questions or even a request for help. If I have already convinced you of the benefits, but you don't know where to start, I will let you in on a little secret: teachers and public school administrators are just like you. Often times they do not know how to start asking for volunteer help either, even if they believe it will be beneficial for their students. So I also encourage you to take the first step, and contact anyone in the administration of your local schools. Or if you need a little help taking that first step, just reach out to me and ask for some help.
As a part of our involvement with the ICR, Bio::Neos is trying to contribute to a bigger and better CSEdWeek in 2019, so we are already looking ahead to next year! Let us know if you are willing to help and maybe we can bring an industry partner to an Hour of Code event in every single school in every district in our region next year!! Check with us on our blog and "Follow" our LinkedIn for future updates. We If you are a business or community member that would like to learn more and become involved with outreach activities like Computer Science Education Week please contact us with your questions.