Computer Science (CS) Education week was first celebrated in 2009 during the week of Grace Hopper’s birthday (December 9, 1906). Hopper invented the first compiler and coined the term “bug” (an error in a program) after removing an actual moth from a computer in 1947. The Hour of Code challenge was introduced in 2013 to engage students at all grade levels to complete an hour of programming during this week. Participation grows internationally each year with over 180 countries and over 1.5 million students participating in 2022.
The “Hour of Tech” program in Milwaukee was launched in 2018 by Northwestern Mutual and the MKE Tech Hub. This collaboration provides businesses an opportunity to start planting the seeds of creativity and exposure in students in hopes of building the local talent not only in numbers but in diversity as well. The Hour of Tech focuses on the concept that technology is everywhere. It seeks to promote computer science, but also brings awareness to engineering, art, user design, and many other technology-related fields.
Numerous companies and organizations support the Hour of Tech each year. Since 2018, the Hour of Tech continues to see an increase in the number of volunteer hours and impacted students. Kohls, headquartered in Menomonee Falls, participates annually in the Hour of Tech, providing a perspective on how art, fashion design, and technology are related. Generac, headquartered in Waukesha, provides students insights into design thinking, methodologies of understanding customers, and understanding the workflow of a day – highlighting various skills needed in the tech industry.
In December, I had the opportunity to visit some Milwaukee-area schools and learn more about MKE Tech’s Hour of Tech by seeing it firsthand. In 2022, 10% of MPS participated in a virtual kick-off event with over 7,900 students viewing the live feed. I connected with Jasmine Treske, tech programs and outreach manager for the MKE Tech Hub Coalition and Kenge Adams, CEO and founder of Connect Business Consulting to learn more about the Hour of Tech and its impact.
At Notre Dame School of Milwaukee, an all-girls school for grades 5-8, a speaker panel of women from Northwestern Mutual, Molson Coors, GE Healthcare, and UW-Milwaukee provided their perspectives and experiences working in STEM. Treske overheard one student exclaim, “They look like me!” Representation matters so much for kids to more easily imagine themselves in a career path.
At Woodlands School, which does not have a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program in place, the school wanted to bring technology to every student through library time. With no prior exposure to STEM, students were able to engage in hands-on activities with volunteers. Adams, who is also a board member at the school, was overwhelmed with joy: “Seeing the light bulb moments from the kids was the best part of the day.”
While Computer Science Education Week is celebrated in December, that doesn’t mean you have to wait a whole year to participate. MKE Tech is currently looking for collaborative partners to expand these opportunities beyond the one week in December. Their hope is to “create a lasting partnership to work with the schools throughout the year.”
If you are interested in learning more about volunteering or bringing the Hour of Tech to your school, visit the Hour of Tech webpage.
To learn more about how computer science education plays a role in the M7 region, read MKE Tech’s “The Importance of Computer Science Education in M7 Region.”
Visit Wisconsin’s Computer Science Strategic Plan to learn more about why computer science is essential in Wisconsin schools.
For more information, contact Amy Bires, Computer Science and Digital Learning Consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction at 608-266-3851, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This item was submitted by Amy Bires, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Computer Science and Digital Learning Consultant.