Annual coding event draws more than 2,300 students

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This year’s virtual coding lessons were based on the popular video game “Minecraft.” Courtesy West Michigan Works!

More than 2,300 West Michigan third, fourth and fifth grade students from 24 schools learned computer programming basics during West Michigan Tech Talent’s virtual Hour of Code event.

This year’s virtual coding lessons were based on the popular video game “Minecraft.” A tutorial and lesson plan for teachers and parents, as well as the complete student coding activity, is available on-demand.

West Michigan Tech Talent (WMTT) is an industry talent council convened by West Michigan Works! focused on creating a diverse and qualified IT workforce in the region.

According to code.org, students who learn computer science are six times more likely to study the subject in college. Yet, the 2020 State of Computer Science Education report indicates only 37% of high schools in Michigan teach computer science.

“We know this program is very impactful and receive great feedback from students and teachers every year,” said Anne Pentiak, West Michigan Tech Talent lead at West Michigan Works! “Due to the challenges posed by COVID-19, WMTT had to think outside the box to create a safe way to deliver this important program in 2020. We decided to create an asynchronous, interactive curriculum this year to ensure as many students as possible could still get exposed to basic coding and the career possibilities available in IT.”

A “Meet Your Local IT Professionals” video series featuring six local computer programmers also was produced, allowing students to hear from community members working in the tech industry.

“The need for IT talent has far outpaced our production of skilled technology professionals,” Pentiak said. “A global pandemic has only increased our society’s reliance on technology, further highlighting the importance of developing a skilled tech workforce.”

Hour of Code is a global movement that has introduced tens of millions of students to computer science. Since 2017, WMTT has taught nearly 9,000 elementary students in 310 West Michigan classrooms during the annual Hour of Code events.

The events take place during National Computer Science Week every December.

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