SCHENECTADY — Local youngsters received a crash course in computer coding with a dash of online safety this week in the debut installment of the “Rise High AT&T Coding Camp” at the city’s Clarkson University Capital District campus.
AT&T created the educational initiative with Rise High, a program designed to promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) concepts, to help close the tech industry’s diversity gap.
"Such offerings help remove common barriers to learning and growth opportunities otherwise not at reach by many of our families," said Omayra L. Padilla De Jesus, executive director of Rise High.
The free weeklong program also highlighted how technology can be used to address cyberbullying and online safety.
Participants learned coding, which they used to create digital storytelling narratives designed to tackle “social, racial and cultural pressures.”
Melding of technology with social awareness issues like cyberbullying and digital citizenship are critical soft skills, program administrators said.
Immanuel Forde, 14, designed a story with an anti-bullying theme.
“It’s about a new kid in school and meeting an aggressor,” he said.
The protagonist must navigate a series of challenges in which he can either help or attack classmates.
“Karma points make you a better or worse person,” said Forde, who aspires to become a computer engineer and eventually start his own coding company.
Students showcased their projects Friday after receiving pep talks from elected officials and project leaders.
“If you can get all this done in five days, imagine what you can do in a lifetime,” De Jesus said.
The effort is designed to encourage students to enter the field of technology and computer programming, one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.
By 2020, there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S., with more than half made up of computer and coding careers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor.
Shatiki Beatty beamed as she watched three of her four children display their projects on laptops, including Kavona, 15, and 14-year-old twins Kamiah and Kiani Beatty-Baker.
Beatty learned about the program through her children’s involvement in Schenectady High School’s Smart Scholars Program, which offers students the ability to take college classes.
“We do a disservice if we don’t include [young people] in the change of the world,” she said.
A second session will be held next week; 40 kids in all will participate.