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Tennessee Coding Competition Sparks Interest in IT

The program, which officials say is the first of its kind in the state, aims to prepare middle and high school students for the 21st-century workforce.

computer coding
(TNS) — William Ramsbey has years of computing experience, but not from the side of coding.

But the Austin-East Magnet senior, and several of his classmates, have been spending this semester learning how to code and design video games.

“I just find it all fascinating and I plan on majoring in computer science in college,” Ramsbey said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn. I love to play video games and just being able to learn what it takes to make one just fascinates me.”

Ramsbey is one of three members on Austin-East’s Code TN team. This is the second year for the competition that promotes computer programming among high school students and officials say is the first of its kind in Tennessee.

This year there will be 14 teams from 10 schools participating in the competition, created by the Great Schools Partnership and the United Way of Great Knoxville. The event takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Caleb Fristoe, with the United Way, said the goal is to prepare middle and high school students for the 21st century workforce. And, he added, less than 2 percent of Tennessee’s high schools offer computer programming.

“We want Tennessee to become the go-to place for talent recruitment in the field of software design, starting here in Knoxville,” Fristoe said.

“We want to develop strong local relationships between schools and businesses, increase access for students, provide teachers with strong training and make sure that 100 percent of our students have the opportunity to learn computer programming in school.”

Clark Foster, who teaches marketing and personal finance at Austin-East, helped to get the school involved in the competition and said he wanted to promote the opportunity to students who have an interest in computers.

“We needed some doors for technology,” he said.

Foster said he hopes students gain confidence and knowledge from participating.

“I hope they learn enough to continue to pursue this,” he said.

All three students on the team — Ramsbey, freshman Ronald Warden and senior Michael Jennings — said they plan to do just that, whether it’s dreams of being on a game design team or using coding to help as a horticulturist.

Michael Neel, with the Technology Cooperative, and Mitch Valenta, with Cellular Sales, have been working with Austin-East’s team. They decided to teach the team coding from the perspective of game design and hoped to show the students the possibilities available in computer programming.

Valenta said he hoped they instilled a spark in students.

“I hope we’re giving the inspiration and the motivation … there’s a lot of things you can do out there with game design and programming,” he said. “Rather than being like I know programming is a thing, it’s like I can do this and I want to learn more.”

©2015 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.