‘Just the beginning:’ Northam, education leaders kick of Computer Science Education Week

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RICHMOND, Va. — At just 15, Shamadre Chambliss spent his Monday tinkering with a project.

“Right now, I’m putting on the bearings, gears and our wheels on,” Chambliss said. “It’s a slow but steady process.”

Chambliss and a group of students from CodeRVA, which exposes high schoolers to coding and other computer science related projects, were at a robotics competition over the weekend.

Their robot needed a redesign, so they were quickly working before other students arrived at the Science Museum of Virginia. 

“I’ve always liked working with my hands,” Chambliss said. “I feel like it will be a good learning experience for me.”

Monday kicked off Computer Science Education Week in the Commonwealth. The theme this year is “Mission Possible: Cybersecurity,” recognizing the information security industry.

In 2016, the General Assembly passed a bill requiring Virginia’s Standards of Learning to include “computer science and computational thinking, including computer coding,” so schools could develop computer science related courses. Those standards were implemented about a year ago.

“It is our hope and vision that computer science will become a core content, that every student – just like you take your math and your science classes,” Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said.

SOL tests do not include sections on computer science, but education officials say school divisions are expected to teach the content and skills covered in the standards.

With companies like Amazon coming to Virginia and the increase in cyber security threats being reported, state officials say the computer science industry is booming.

“This is just the beginning, you know we’re going to have both big and small companies come to Virginia and there’s going to be a need for many of you to go into the computer science field,” Qarni said.

According to CodeVA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 30,000 computing jobs open in Virginia. In 2015, there were only about 1,500 people who graduated with computer science degrees.

“There is more out there to do in the technology and cyberspace than I think that we have enough people for,” Michael Watson, the Chief Information Security Officer for the Commonwealth Security and Risk Management, said.

Watson’s main job is to make sure the Commonwealth’s systems are “secure and available.” He says computer science jobs keep everything going – from using credit cards to protecting your data from hackers.

“As we have more things that are internet connected and impacting our life on a daily basis, security becomes just that much more important,” Watson said.

For kids like Chambliss, designing and building robots is giving him the ‘bearings’ for a bright future.

“It’s pretty much something I want to do with my life,” Chambliss said.

Computer Science Education Week lasts until Dec. 9. Click here to see if other events are happening in your area.

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