DuBOIS — Though it was the last day of school Monday, approximately 130 DuBois Area Middle School sixth-graders were engaged in hands-on computer science learning thanks to a visit from Google’s CS First Roadshow.
“This is always one of the highest performing schools that I get a chance to visit,” said Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, who represents the 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and who recommended Google make a stop in DuBois. “It’s always great to be here with friends from Google, I had an opportunity to visit them at their headquarters out in California as a part of my work on educational workforce. Everything today that you can do in life involves technology and science and, quite frankly, no matter what you wind up doing in your life in the future, I think you’ll probably learn things today right here at the middle school that’ll make you better in the future with what you do.”
Thompson told the students that technology is constantly changing and the country needs the next generation of computer scientists ready for any opportunities that may arise.
“That means learning and using computer science,” Thompson said. “Computer science is more than just interesting job opportunities, it’s about making the world a better place. The reality is that computer science will be a key part of the future of not just work, but everything, so finances, health, it’s government, it’s energy. It’s agriculture, it’s transportation, it’s art, it’s education. You name it, computer science is a critical component of improving it, of improving your lives for the better.”
Thompson interacted with the students as they coded their own stories using Scratch, an easy-to-use coding software that teaches students the basics of computer science.
The students explored Adventure on the High Seas, a one-hour activity that helped the student create a narrative story between two characters.
In addition to the basics of coding, the program also emphasized persistence in problem solving, a skill that is applicable in every job and hobby.
“As you start on your own journey with computer science, I hope you can learn these important skills and take them beyond not just learning for code, to feel empowered to try big, new, exciting things, and remember that anything is possible,” Thompson said.
After the presentation, Thompson said he was excited to see how engaged the students were.
“It was just incredible. They had such a good time,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be fun to check back in with the school as we get into the fall and see what seeds have been planted and where this goes from here. This is a type of skills that all of our kids everywhere need to get exposed to.”
In Pennsylvania, there are more than 17,000 open computing jobs (3.4x the state average demand rate) and a shortage of computer science graduates. Only 20 percent are female, according to statistics provided Monday. The CS First Roadshow aims to offset these statistics by traveling to classrooms across the country to encourage students in computer science.
By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1 million more computer science jobs than graduating students who qualify for the jobs. These jobs are in every state, in every industry and they are projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs.