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Engaging youth early may help meet growing demand for computer science grads

virginia cooperative extensionGraduates with a computer science degree are in high demand in the job market, but the demand for graduates exceeds supply.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58 percent of all new STEM-related jobs are in computing, but only eight percent of STEM graduates are computer science majors. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, four subject areas that fewer U.S. students have been focusing on, which has implications for workforce development and national security.

Computer science graduates have lucrative career options such as data scientist, computer programmer, network architect, mobile applications developer, and more. CS graduates are hired by government agencies like the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, technology and corporate giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco and IBM, as well as technology startups. They can also secure employment in many sectors.

To get youth excited about computer science, on Saturday, March 16, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program at Virginia State University (VSU) is hosting “Code Your World at VSU!,” a three-hour event for students aged 8–14. The event, held in partnership with the university’s Department of Computer Science, will be held from 9:00 a.m. to noon in Room 14S, Hunter-McDaniel Building, Virginia State University, 1 Hayden Drive, Petersburg, Va., 23806.

Attendees will learn to create animations that they can show their friends and family. To learn the importance of detail and precision in giving instructions, students will collaborate to create algorithms for dance moves that volunteers will perform. They will also complete a hands-on activity that teaches artificial intelligence.

“Youth will be able to apply the algorithm design and critical thinking skills to other aspects of their daily lives to make things more efficient,” said Dr. Joseph Shelton, assistant professor of computer science at VSU. “Students will take away many concepts, but the main goals are to increase awareness of STEM and to teach transferable computer science topics that can be applied anywhere. The event will also emphasize the importance of computer science to the nation and the development of technology.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity for youth to learn more about computer science from experts and students currently in the field,” said Dr. Chantel Wilson, Extension specialist and 4-H STEAM Educator. “We hope the youth participating in this program will learn what computer science is all about, know it is a viable career option and learn there’s an opportunity to study computer science at VSU.”

“Code Your World” consists of a four-part challenge that teaches kids to apply computer science to the world around them through hands-on activities. Developed by Google and West Virginia University Extension Service, “Code Your World” includes a computer-based activity on Google’s CS First platform and three unplugged activities that bring coding to life through games and interaction. Kids will participate in digital animation using the coding language Scratch, as well as dance to represent important computer science skills, including computational thinking, decomposition, algorithm design, pattern recognition and abstraction.

The event costs $15 per person and is limited to 30 spots. Snacks and beverages will be provided. To register, visit, click on the event and then click on the registration link.

For further information or if a person with a disability desires any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, contact Jessica Harris at or call (804) 524-5964 / (800) 828-1120 (TDD) during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. VSU is an equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

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