More than 350 schools and community sites hosted Hour of Code learning events in New Mexico during national Computer Science Education Week, held December 3–7, 2018.
New Mexico TechWorks and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) connected local volunteers with classrooms throughout Northern New Mexico to introduce computer science learning opportunities during Hour of Code sessions.
Third through sixth grade students at Santa Clara Pueblo’s Kha'p'o Community School had a blast programming their own dance parties with help from Adam Warniment (LANL X Division, Theoretical Design Division Office), Allan Harrison (LANL XCP-1 Computational Physics) and LANL Foundation’s former K–12 Program Director Gwen Perea Warniment, STEM Coordinator Dave Forester and Communications Director Andrea Neal.
LANL volunteers Adam Warniment (above) and Allan Harrison (below) help students at Kha'p'o Community School with programming during an Hour of Code.
“The kids lit up! The introduction to basic programming concepts and language allowed them to guide the movement of a character using different dance moves in sync to popular music,” said Neal. “It’s an entry point to programming, and hopefully some of the students will pursue it further as an interest. It’s also important for them to connect with professionals, like our neighbors at the Lab, to see that you can make a career out of computer science.”
Hour of Code is an initiative started by Code.org to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming. The tutorials are translated into 45 languages and have been offered in more than 180 countries. Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color.
According to their website, more than 50 percent of new STEM jobs in the U.S. are in computer science, yet only 10 percent of college graduates hold applicable degrees. The average salary for a computing occupation in New Mexico is $79,230, significantly higher than the average salary in the state of $44,160.
Technology is everywhere, and Jennifer Case Nevarez is passionate about bringing relevant learning opportunities to New Mexicans. “We started New Mexico TechWorks to expand tech access in education and increase tech employment and enterprise development in our region,” she said.
This collective action initiative, stewarded by the Community Learning Network, has received funding through a K–12 grant from the LANL Foundation. NM TechWorks offers many resources through its website, including connection to colleges and training in computing as well as a link to a statewide database of tech employers. Tech careers are growing in all industries with applications in gaming, digital media, web and app development, film, music, virtual reality, cyber security, information systems, data management, research, education, agriculture and much more.
“In New Mexico, there are over 1800 computing jobs that represent nearly $150 million in potential income for families in our state,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in a film produced by NM TechWorks. “Preparing young people to code and be tech smart will unlock countless opportunities and lead to a brighter, smarter, and more economically vibrant New Mexico.”