Jennifer Nevarez

 

Today, computing is reported as the number-one source of wages in the U.S. While there are more than 500,000 computing jobs available nationwide, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce this year. Furthermore, although computer science is fundamental to every industry in today’s economy, 75 percent of schools still don’t teach it.

 

This month New Mexico joins the “Largest Learning Event in History.” Local businesses, organizations and professionals are joining forces with New Mexico TechWorks and hundreds of students and teachers to participate in a regional “Hour of Code”™ (HoC) during National Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 5–11. The HoC is a nationwide initiative launched by code.org. It is designed to introduce millions of students to the wonders of computer science and programming. More than 100 million students worldwide have already tried HoC. This year, New Mexico TechWorks is promoting the event regionally to ensure that students in New Mexico “are on the forefront of creating technology of the future—not just consuming it—and are learning critical skills for 21st-century success.” Details can be found online at www.nmtechworks.com/hour-of-code

 

Even the mayor is learning to code. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales tried HoC last month in his City Hall office. He coded with the students and staff of Piñon Elementary School, plus representatives from New Mexico TechWorks and the Computer Science Teachers Association of New Mexico.

 

Santa Fe Try-Athon is a free, public event on Dec. 8 from 3:30 to 6:30 pm at the Violet Crown Cinema in the Railyard. Community members of all ages are invited to try HoC on their personal smartphone, tablet, or laptop with help from professional software developer volunteers. In addition, participants can enjoy free popcorn while computer science students showcase highlights from technology programs in local schools.

 

Everybody can code! GEAR UP New Mexico and the New Mexico Higher Education Department are promoting HoC events and competitions in more than 11 school districts. Teach for America New Mexico is promoting the event through all of its educators and school sites. Los Alamos National Laboratory is supporting learning activities and providing professional volunteer support for HoC events, especially in Española, Los Alamos and northern New Mexico. Business leaders have also committed to trying an HoC.

 

Cultivating Coders’ Boot Camps

Cultivating Coders is a New Mexico-based nonprofit that has been bringing technical training in coding to rural and underserved areas such as the Navajo Reservation. The organization provides intensive training through 8-week coding boot camps.

 

Cultivating Coders’ idea was simple: take laptops and instructors out to individuals and communities who could benefit greatly from a career path in web development. By providing training in web development languages such as HTML, PHP and JavaScript, Cultivating Coders provides students with valuable tech skills. The program also supports communities by offering free web application services to local businesses. Students take on a community-coding project as part of their training. They graduate with a portfolio of real-life projects and keep the laptop they used in class, which is loaded with the software they need to continue learning. Through partnerships with businesses like DSI, a nationally renowned web development and Internet service company, graduates have access to internships and immediate employment that pays well and are even encouraged to start digital enterprises of their own.

 

This past summer Cultivating Coders completed its first coding boot camp program with high school students in Shiprock. Next year, Cultivating Coders and New Mexico TechWorks are collaborating to organize coding boot camps for adults and high school students in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico. If someone you know is interested in learning to code or becoming a software developer, visit www.nmtechworks.com/cultivating-coders

 

New Mexico TechWorks Community Coalition

New Mexico TechWorks is a cross-sector, community coalition coordinated by StartUp Santa Fe and Community Learning Network that is mobilizing to strengthen the region’s technology economy and train a more tech-savvy workforce.

 

The coalition began by building a regional task force and starting an online tech directory. An online video bank of New Mexico tech career profiles and a tech business-needs survey are about to be launched. New Mexico TechWorks also promotes special events, provides resources for educators, students, and businesses. To learn more or get involved, visit www.nmtechworks.com

 

Other supporters of this initiative include the Computer Science Teachers Association of New Mexico, the City of Santa Fe, Descartes Labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the LANL Foundation and software developers across the region.

 

 

Jennifer Nevarez is director of the Community Learning Network, a local nonprofit dedicated to “building stronger communities through real-life learning.” The organization is home to New Mexico TechWorks, as well as Southwest Experiential Education and “Love Where We Live” Youth Ambassadors. www.communitylearningnetwork.org