Coding Meets Community
By Megan Jonas
Friday night, and a campus computer lab is full of teenagers who have chosen to spend their evening learning about science and technology. Although the colorful images on their screens appear to be games, the students, grades 7-12, are actually learning about coding. Two Whitworth computer science majors circle the room, providing help and asking the students if they have thought about college for their future.
This was the scene at one station during STEMplosion, a yearly event that brings about 100 Mead School District students to Whitworth University.
It's one of many ways the Whitworth Mathematics & Computer Science Department provides much-needed support for computer science education in the community.
"Every high school and junior high is trying to build out more CS classes," says Pete Tucker '91, professor of mathematics & computer science. "The demand is so high at that level, and they just don't have enough teachers with the background."
Tucker began teaching at his alma mater in 2003 after working for Microsoft. Several years ago, he joined an association of Spokane computer science teachers with the goal of supporting K-12 education. Through this group, Tucker has helped create opportunities for Whitworth students to share their knowledge with K-12 students.
"I want to keep developing our students' hearts for community," he says.
Perhaps the biggest way Whitworth students are making an impact is through CS Outreach, a course in which students assist in CS classes at local schools. Tucker formed the elective four years ago to infuse more expertise and enthusiasm in those area classes. The outreach course has generated "remarkable interest" from Whitworth students, he says. "I tell students, 'Go out in the classroom and see where you're most needed.'"