Students show off computer science projects to tackle community problems

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INDIANAPOLIS — Teams of students were able to show off how they would solve problems in their communities during a showcase Wednesday morning.

The Nextech CSforGood showcase showcases how computer science can help the community. This comes as Indiana schools are now required to offer computer science classes.

During the showcase, students showed off the inventions they designed to help solve problems in their communities using their computer science skills. Their ideas were judged on ingenuity, functionality, and how well each addresses the community’s need.

One of these inventions was an app for a food pantry. Students with Hamilton Southeastern worked with one of the school’s secretaries that started a food pantry for students in need. The app lets students find out where they can get help and ask for it anonymously.

Julie Alano, a computer science teacher for Hamilton Southeastern, says the contest lets the students get real-world experience that they can benefit from later.

“For them to be able to go and do things on their own and take it out further and be able to put those on their resume or put them in their “GitHub” repository for them to be looking for internships even in high school is huge,” Alano said.

Another project was a website to help with a donation drive for the homeless. Plainfield students learned about homelessness and how to help from a computer science angle to encourage donations.

Julia Crone, the Idea lab facilitator for Plainfield Community Middle School, says this gives students some perspective.

“These students have shown perseverance, a lot of real-world skills, creativity, innovation, and also confidence as well,” said Crone. “They can kinda see how computer science has helped others, has helped themselves, and being able to help their community.”

Organizers say this showcase is focused on getting children interested in computer science rather than turning it into just another class.

“It is critical that we kinda spark that idea and that imagination with the children and with the students so that we can actually increase the number of students pursuing post-secondary opportunities in technology as our state continues to grow and offer more and more of those jobs,” said Karen Jung, president of Nextech.

The showcase falls during Computer Science Education Week, a national celebration of the contributions that students, educators and community partners make to advance computer science and digital literacy in schools.

Officials say they are already seeing success from the new mandate for computer science classes. Indiana now ranks as the number one state in the Midwest for computer science education.

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