St. Vrain Valley School students and staff are invited to celebrate Computer Science Education Week (CSED Week) through a series of engagement opportunities available online including robot programming, code writing, and live virtual sessions with industry partners highlighting different career pathways.
St. Vrain Valley Schools has been a supporter of CSED Week since its launch in 2009. The annual week-long campaign is a call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field.
Schools across grade-levels celebrate in different ways. “We start computer science education at the elementary level to give our students a basic level of knowledge, which in turn will give them access to future opportunities,” said Jessicca Shaffer, STEM Coordinator at Longmont Estates Elementary. Shaffer is teaching her students about Grace Hopper, who invented the first compiler and coined the widely used term “bug” after removing a moth from a computer. Shaffer’s fourth and fifth grade students are using Bitsbox to code a winter greeting card to share over email and text.
Exposure to computer science and gaining skills in the field is essential for successful 21st-century learning. According to Shaffer, “It’s like being able to read and write – it’s another literacy that gives students more opportunities for success. This is why it’s essential that computer science education is equitable and accessible. Learning how to code builds skills like persistence, creativity, and logical reasoning. It also improves students’ reading comprehension and computational thinking.”
Beyond the activities facilitated by educators within the classroom, students and staff are invited to participate in a multitude of online opportunities curated by the Innovation Center.
Their live webinar series Level Up features industry professionals who speak on different topics within the field of computer science. Students learn about various careers through guest visits by professionals and gain perspective on their own future career interests. All sessions are recorded and archived for future learning opportunities.
Today’s session included undergraduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder involved with the university’s Autonomous Robotics Perception Group (ARPG). The speakers addressed the topic “How does computer science relate to robotics?” through demonstrations at the university’s robotic lab and an overview of the challenges they have to tackle within the design process. St. Vrain postsecondary students had the opportunity to ask questions specific to their interests.
“There is a wide range of career opportunities for students to pursue in the field of computer science and a lot of unfilled high paying jobs available,” said Axel Reitzig, Coordinator of Innovation at the Innovation Center. Career pathways for students to explore include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and data science, creative computing and gaming, and virtual reality. According to Reitzig, the field is broad and encompasses student interests beyond the technical or mathematical components. “We focus on human-centered design thinking. We always have to ask how do we design ethically, and how do we design with a lot of end users in mind.” Reitzig emphasized that there is a place within the field of computer science for those who have interests in other areas such as the social sciences and psychology, entrepreneurship, and project management.
“All students should learn about computer science because it is embedded in all parts of our lives – we need to have a diverse workforce designing and engineering our technology to ensure it serves everyones’ needs and interests.”
In addition to the Level Up sessions, there is a host of CSED Week activities for different grade-levels available on the Innovation Center’s CSED Week webpage.