Google CS First Expands from Lowcountry Across the United States

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What happens when a bunch of middle schoolers have the chance to learn computer programming from one of the world’s foremost technology and software companies? You end up with a population of skilled computer programmers willing and eager to pursue careers in data and technology.

That is the hope behind Google’s CS First Clubs, which piloted the program in several Lowcountry middle schools starting last summer at Google’s Data Center here in Berkeley County. The company hired a team of Teaching Fellows and program managers to develop the curriculum and put their philosophy into action. After seeing the success in South Carolina, Googlers at other facilities across the country started using the materials to launch clubs where they live, vastly expanding the program.

The CS First Clubs served more than 1200 kids through 85 programs in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. In total, more than 1400 students have taken part in more than 100 unique programs from Charleston to San Francisco. The students and families who participated so far are incredibly optimistic about what this training and exposure means to their futures.

Two students who participated last year both sing the praises of how it changed them and helped them realize what they want to be when they grow up. Micah, a local middle schooler, says, ”The main thing I want to do is be an animator and make video games…because I want to do something amazing.” Megan Clark, another local student, agreed that computer science is now more important than ever, “A lot of careers incorporate computer science, which a lot of people don’t know.”

The response from school administrators has been equally enthusiastic. “We have to give students access to amazing opportunities,” according to Kevin Smith, Principal at Charleston’s C.E. Williams Middle School. “CS First for our school has been an opportunity for students to engage curriculum and computer science in a way they have never even seen it… it’s opened up student’s horizons.”

And now, thanks to the success these programs have experienced locally, as students head back to school around the country this fall, thousands more will experience success as the clubs launch coast to coast. New CS First clubs are starting across South Carolina this fall as well. Where, and how many, is determined largely by the number of volunteers who want to help.

So what is CS First? Think of it as a full-blown computer science toolkit. Students attend for free and the clubs are designed by Google’s teaching fellows, who work at South Carolina’s Berkeley County Data Center. Volunteers organize and implement the clubs in their local communities.

BoomTown, who teamed up with Google earlier this summer, shares the same belief—that giving young students positive and encouraging exposure to computer science will raise up the next generation of software developers and engineers. Last year’s programs participants were given the opportunity to tour the BoomTown office in a show of local support from one of Charleston’s leading software companies. Students had the chance to meet with software developers and get a feel for the working environment of a software company.

If you are interested in bringing a computer science club to your school or want to volunteer, visit cs-first.com.

 

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