Remember that stirring keynote at FutureStack14 when Hadi Partovi took the stage and shared the vision and the story of Code.org? He’s a co-founder of the non-profit organization dedicated to demystifying computer science and improving racial and gender equality and representation in this growing field. Well, the inspiration Hadi provided hasn’t faded in the months since New Relic’s user conference in October.
A big week
With the lofty goal of reaching 100 million potential computer science students by the end of 2015, Code.org is hosting Computer Science Education Week (CSEDWeek) this week (December 8th – 12th) to help address the rising need for more workers with technical skills. During the week, Code.org is urging everyone to participate in the Hour of Code. So far, more than 61 million future coders have tried it—including President Obama… and a bunch of kids visiting New Relic’s Intergalactic Engineering Headquarters in Portland. (See more computer science education stats in this Code.org infographic.)
Code.org holds a special place at New Relic, as founder and CEO Lew Cirne’s daughter began programming with the Hour of Code last year. To continue spreading the word about Code.org, after FutureStack I started talking to parents and administrators at my kids’ school. They have a great program, but like 90% of U.S. schools, there’s no computer science curriculum. But the Code.org message helped convince the school to participate.
Data nerds for a day
So it came to be that two weeks ago a class of students from the Franciscan Montessori Earth School arrived at New Relic for a field trip. The mixed group of 21 boys and girls in fourth through sixth grades spent three hours touring our office, pair programming their way through the Hour of Code, using a whiteboard to design an algorithm for playing checkers, and devouring lunch in our communal lunch room overlooking downtown Portland.
These are kids who have seen hospitals, law offices, factories, and other places where adults spend their days, but none of them had an inkling of what it’s like to work at a software company. No less than four kids left the building with starry eyes saying “I want to work here!”
Their teacher describes the trip this way: “Everyone was extremely positive about the whole experience. I heard that it was an awesome fieldtrip and several students expressed the hope that we would do it again. I think the coding had a much stronger impact because of the setting—working with professionals in a really beautiful adult office setting. Your colleagues were very patient and great at getting the kids to work collaboratively!”
For CSEDWeek, these honorary Relics are becoming coding mentors, helping their friends complete the Hour of Code back at school. They’ll carry with them stories and ideas gleaned from their time at New Relic. When all is said and done, I expect more than 100 children to have been affected by our little experiment in nerd life.
So what can you do to participate, this week and going forward?
Bring the Hour of Code to your child’s school, to your community, to whomever will listen. Tweet, post, and share your enthusiasm for coding, and talk about the importance of exposing the next generation to this critical skill. Code.org estimates that by 2020 there will be a million more jobs in computing than there will be computer science graduates to fill those positions. Fortunately, just about anybody can learn to code—especially if we all do what we can to help.
New Relic customer marketing manager Emily Jacobs contributed to this post.
Graphic courtesy of code.org