Computer Science Education Week Engages Youth and Families

CSEd
Students participate in a Virtual Family Coding Night hosted by Central Lee Community School District

Each December, schools around the world participate in Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek).  For the second year, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council has partnered with the Iowa Department of Education, statewide AEAs, and industry partners to curate resources and events for students, educators and families throughout the state in relation to this year’s theme “Creativity with AI.”  The goals of the week were to build excitement for computer science and help students learn about computer science careers. 

“Early exposure to a wide array of Computer Science topics helps students explore paths to various careers related to technology. Their passions can be sparked with CSEdWeek Community Sessions where families can discover interests in the IT field while engaging in hands-on experiences with current IT faculty and students,” is what Dr. Michelle Ruse, District Chair of Computer Science at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) had to say about the importance of the events held. 

DMACC was one of several locations to hold an in-person version of the Virtual Family Coding Night where students and their families were able to explore three coding activities dealing with artificial intelligence.  The activities, AI Card Game, Exploring with Teachable Machine, and Algorithm Art offered plugged and unplugged ways to learn about artificial intelligence and machine learning.  “Our kids had high energy the entire hour and all ages K-8 were able to enjoy the experiences provided.  Many came away with a new spark of interest for AI,” said Sara Newton, a Central Lee parent who coordinated an in-person host site for the family coding event.

In addition to the family coding night, two webinars were offered to secondary students exploring careers and pathways to careers in AI.  SwineTech, Vermeer, Mid-American Energy, and Google representatives spoke about how careers are changing thanks to the ever changing technology of artificial intelligence.  “AI is becoming the next smartphone,” said Daniel Madison of Mid-American Energy.  Not only were specific careers discussed but also the way this technology is shaping everyday tasks for businesses.  Drake University and Iowa State University representatives spoke about the pathways to careers in AI that their institutions have created and are still creating. 

Christopher Porter from Drake University told students that he sees many of the students majoring in artificial intelligence double or triple majoring in other areas which shows how widespread the need to learn computer science truly is.  Nicole Lewis echoed this sentiment as well, stating that she sees a number of different bachelor degree backgrounds in students entering Iowa State University’s graduate program for artificial intelligence.  “Be open minded that you can be a computer scientist,” was the advice current graduate student at Iowa State University, Samuel Fanijo gave students.

CSEdWeek is one of the many initiatives in Iowa that has helped lead them to be named one of the top ten states in the nation for computer science education.  If you missed any of the events, recordings along with all the resources from both this year and last year’s CSEdWeek can be found on Iowa’s CSEdWeek webpage.  Just because the week is over doesn’t mean the excitement for computer science has!  If you would like to be a part of CSEdWeek next year or have questions, please reach out to Mauree Haage, North Central Regional STEM Manager at mhaage@iastate.edu.

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