Local Blacksburg tech leaders Rackspace and Tech Pad have been separately bringing quality STEM coding classes to Blacksburg and the New River Valley for a while now. My own company and Internet/cloud hoster Rackspace has been running monthly Let’s Code Blacksburg! (LCBB) programming & technology workshops since 2012. Local coworking space Tech Pad has been running nearly weekly programming series with their Blacksburg Coder DoJo group for over a year now, and other local tech experts from around town have been running the New River Valley 100 Girls of Code workshops since this past summer.
The leaders of these STEM coding groups like to occasionally meet to discuss and assist each other with various community opportunities, but recently we huddled around the idea of coordinating efforts around a single “Blacksburg Week of Code“. This focused, three day set of coding opportunities (from December 10-12th) is being offered in conjunction with the global “Computer Science Education Week” (December 7-13) efforts being evangelized by the Hour of Code STEM programming movement. The now global Hour of Code movement proclaims, “Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path.”
This mindset lines up perfectly with the vision and missions of all of our local STEM groups mentioned above, and is why we are all combining efforts for this one week in December to introduce yet more kids in the New River Valley to computer science and STEM related experiences.
Even Roanoke/Blacskburg technology staffing company Tek Systems, who heard about what we were planning, is now teaming up with our other community leaders and coder groups by buying pizza for the kids and participants of these STEM coding classes.
The three “Blacksburg Week of Code” hands on STEM workshops that are now open for RSVP registration are:
- Thursday December 10 5-8pm @Rackspace – LCBB: Make Your Own Autonomous Arduino Robot!
- Friday December 11 5-7pm @Rackspace – Coder DoJo: “Collaborated Hour of Code”
- Saturday, December 12 9am-noon @Radford University – 100 GoC: “Unplugged Coding Workshop”
Heather Norvell, a local web developer and initiator of the NRV chapter of 100 Girls of Code says, “100 Girls of Code has given me the opportunity to give back to a community that I grew up in. It has allowed me to show girls that computer science is fun, and that women all over the world (even in their own neighborhoods) are making an impact in the software community, as well as get these girls excited about code, and hopefully get them to try it on their own.”
Jessica Evans from TekSystems recruiting in Roanoke says, “TEKsystems is proud to support our local STEM Communities. We are very excited about the impact that our STEM programs are making in the area and look forward to continuing to help drive growth for these programs.”
I myself and am old school Engineer at Rackspace and instructor with Let’s Code Blacksburg!, and am involved in creating and offering these community STEM classes for several personal and professional reasons. On the personal side, I have four pre-teen kids of my own that my wife and I want to provide as many technology and programming opportunities as we can. Since we are a part of a small knit group of home schoolers in the area (www.nrvche.org), whenever I offer technology classes for my own kids I like to share those same opportunities with others in the area. That dovetails in nicely with our LCBB community work through Rackspace. On the professional side, Rackspace believes in offering these types of community programming workshops for several reasons. First, all of our employees (we call “Rackers”) are all encouraged to give back to the community through their favorite charity or community group. Since our office is a software developer shop, our people love to share what they know, sometimes sharing it with other professionals, sometimes sharing it with kids through STEM outreach. Second, Rackspace also believes in seeding the technology community with STEM experiences here within the New River Valley because growing the technical culture and aptitude of our community greatly increases our community’s entrepreneurial and creative capacities. Both of these personal and professional missions are not only great for growing our tech community, but also for attracting others across the nation to this area for high tech jobs, starting new businesses and building a stronger more appealing community. It really is a win win win.
Norvell continues, “By Participating in Hour of Code with our fellow code community leaders, I hope that our Girls of Code chapter will be able to reach more and more individuals and grow our chapter. This in turn gives more girls in out community opportunities — through our sponsors, scholarships, etc— as well as equips them to participate in other STEM educational programs, grow, and learn even more.”
If you would like more information on how you can get more involved in helping out or getting behind these types of groups and events, contact the organizers on the web site links at the top of this article.. or tweeks(at)rackspace.com. And don’t forget to get your own kids signed up for these great, often free or near free STEM events as soon as you can. Once word gets out, they usually go pretty fast!