Earlier this week, I was proud to join Governor Paul R. LePage in honoring the important role computer science has in our state’s classrooms and growing economy by recognizing Computer Science Education Week (CSEDdWeek).
This national awareness week (Dec. 9-15), founded by our Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) partner Microsoft and also sponsored by Apple, our longest-running MLTI partner, seeks to engage more students in computer science.
As part of this initiative and our state’s larger commitment to STEM, more than 15,000 students in Maine are participating this week in the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming using basic online tutorials created by engineers at companies like Microsoft and Google.
And on Saturday, 600 elementary and middle school students will gather at the Augusta Civic Center for the 14th Annual Maine FIRST LEGO League Championship, a program offered by Maine Robotics. Also in the building will be 20 teams of high school students competing in the Central Maine VEX Robot Tournament, offered by the Robotics Institute of Maine. Together, the two will create the state’s largest STEM gathering, with over 2,500 people expected!
It’s exciting to see all this enthusiasm during CSEdWeek. But even more encouraging to me is knowing that the pipeline for the next generation of computer science and STEM innovators is being seeded in Maine year-round.
Through MLTI, Maine puts technology in the hands of tens of thousands of students. Meanwhile, Maine Robotics works annually with more than 1,500 students, many who go on to be top finishers in national competitions and Project>Login hopes to double the number of computer science and information technology graduates from the University of Maine System by 2016. And that’s just a few of the many statewide STEM development opportunities that will prepare our students for the growing number of high-paying Maine jobs.
Even those who don’t go on to pursue STEM-related careers will benefit from participating in these programs. As a former engineer, I know first-hand that coding or robotics is as much about the product as the process. Through these opportunities, students will solidify the problem-solving, communication, creativity, teamwork and project management skills they need to succeed regardless of their chosen path.
That’s good for them, and it’s good for Maine.