‘Code the Town’ takes over Mission

Mission has joined a national movement in a computer programming initiative called Code the Town. The camp is designed to teach the youth and adults how to create technology-based projects such as app building and video game development.

Much like its own language, code is what allows for the development and design of computer software. A particular code makes each individual program unique and gives it its specific functions such as animation, sound and motion.

20141017 Mission Code-the-Town-photos 4343Schools all over the nation have implemented computer science courses and activities, starting at the elementary level. Last year Code.org, a non-profit agency promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics, created the Hour of Code campaign with the goal of recruiting 10 million students to experiment with computer science. According to the Computer Science Education Week website, the campaign has reached 44 million students worldwide.

The Mission Economic Development Commission partnered up with Sylvan Learning Center and Border Kids Code to teach coding to people of all ages. Mission CISD, Sharyland ISD, La Joya ISD and IDEA Mission are the districts in the initiative.

“The reason we’re calling it Code the Town is because we’re hoping that we can literally teach code to everybody in the town,” said Alex Meade, Mission EDC’s chief executive officer. “I know that’s not going to be the case, but we’re trying to make folks aware of importance of computer programming.”

Sylvan Rio Grande Valley started teaching students kindergarten through sixth grade Oct. 6 at the Boys and Girls Club. The students attend the after school camp for two weeks. Every two weeks a new cohort will attend the camp. Susan Valverde, executive director of Sylvan RGV, said the next two cohorts are full, but there are still three more cohorts that students can sign up for.

The curriculum for Code the Town was created by Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar and Marcos Silva. The two also founded Border Kids Code, an educational camp based in the Valley that focuses on coding for youth. With Code the Town, Border Kids Code is implementing a “teach the teachers” technique for junior high and high schools.

“We’re going to get teachers that are already in classrooms and we’re going to teach them the fundamentals of coding. Then they’re going to go back and teach it to their kids,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said. “So what you’re going to see is like a wave of learning code.”

Border Kids Code started seminars with teachers Oct. 11 and will have a second Oct. 18. About 35 teachers are expected to attend the 8 a.m – 4 p.m. seminar. But Gonzalez-Alcantar said that because the majority of the applications came from junior high students, Code the Town is trying to make a component for them as well.

In addition, classes for “non-educator” adults will start anywhere from late October to November.

Code the Town culminates Dec. 8 – Dec. 14, which is national Computer Science Education Week. Susan Valverde explained that during this week people can showcase their new skills in coding and technology through demonstrations and competitions. Mission EDC has prizes in store for the winners.

Alex Meade said that Code the Town is intended to occur every fall, spring and summer. He hopes that the people of Mission will be inspired to start up technology-based businesses after gaining the skills to do so.

It is predicted that by 2020 there will be 1 million more computer science jobs than students who can enter the labor force as skilled workers, according to Code.org. With Code the Town, Meade hopes to create a technological entrepreneurship by giving residents the tools to start.

“I think it’s important for folks to know that this is something new. But at the same time we feel that this is going to put Mission on the map,” Meade said. “We are creating a class for a skill-set that is much needed right now.”

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