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The 25 Year Commitment to Making a Computer Scientist

CSEdWeek continues to roll along with events in schools, districts, community centers, and businesses and computer science educators continue to play a critical role in all of these events. Last night I had the pleasure of attending a CSEdWeek event in the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado that was sponsored by Oracle and CSTA among others.

According to Superintendent Don Haddad, St. Vrain is the fastest growing school district in the state and clearly St. Vrain is well on the way to establishing itself as a district dedicated to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn the skills that will enable them to compete in the global economic environment.

Last night's activities followed upon a district hackathon that involved students in computing challenges in three areas: Best Educational Gaming Solution, Best Teenage Consumer Retail Solution, and SVVSD/ESRI Expert Choice Award. Parents, teachers, community members and staff from several local political leaders were able to view student displays and to vote a People's Choice Award.

In addition to the prize giving, the evening included a rich agenda of speakers, all focusing on the importance of computer science education. In her address, Oracle Academy Vice President Alison Derbenwick Miller noted that creating a computer scientist takes 25 years and requires engagement by educators at all levels to make sure that students acquire the skills, knowledge, and experience they need as they progress through their educational experiences.

Alison's focus on the process of becoming a computer scientist was echoed by the members of the panel that I had the pleasure to moderate. Panel members Alexander Repenning (University of Colorado at Boulder), Ann Root (Niwok High School), Tracy Camp (Colorado School of Mines) and Sarah Hug (University of Colorado at Boulder) spoke passionately about the realities of learning computer science at middle school, high school and university and what research is teaching us about how to better engage all students in computer science learning.

During the panel question session, many of the parents present demonstrated a deep concern about issues of access to computer science knowledge for all students. One parent, for example, noted a critical need for affordable informal education experiences to help students developed their interest in computer science at a young age.

The evening also received a nice boost from local politicians who are putting computer science education on the map in Colorado. U.S. Representative Jared Polis (a passionate supporter of computer science education) sent a warm video welcome. Monisha Merchant, Senior Advisor for Business Affairs for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, also spoke about the critical commitment to providing students with the opportunity to prepare for the jobs of the future.

The evening was a great success thanks to the incredible support and efforts of all of the participants and most especially of Alison Derbenwick Miller and Sara Akbar of Oracle, Patricia Quinones of the St. Vrain School District and my terrific panelists.

Chris Stephenson
CSTA Executive Director

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