Google, Rep. Bilirakis team up to promote coding in the classroom

Google spokesperson Alex Sanchez, left, and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis work with two Oldsmar Elementary School students as part of Google’s Computer Science First Roadshow coding program on Feb. 23.

OLDSMAR – Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, was in an Oldsmar Elementary School classroom recently to promote a program developed by Google that helps kids learn about computer coding.

The Computer Science First Roadshow came to the school on Feb. 23, as part of the Internet giant’s initiative to teach students in grades four through eight about the importance of STEM education and encourage kids to develop an interest in computer science.

Two Google employees, including Alex Sanchez, delivered the hour-long presentation, which focuses on teaching students both problem solving and technical coding skills through a series of interactive activities. They encouraged kids to develop an interest in computer science education by giving real-life examples of how coding and STEM education can lead to educational opportunities and exciting careers. According to Sanchez, the program provides the type of hands-on learning experience that kids can’t get elsewhere.

“The CS First Roadshow makes computer science relatable,” Sanchez said by phone after the session at OES. “A lot of people think coding is long and complicated, but we show them that it’s actually fun. One of my favorite parts is the first time they get to open the computers and do it themselves. The students really relate to it. You get to see the gears in their heads working!”

Sanchez said the program uses a visual program language called Scratch that uses puzzle pieces to encourage learning, and they show the students how coding plays a vital role in a variety of fields and industries today.

“We show them how the fashion industry uses coding to create a light-up dress, how the health care industry uses it to analyze cancerous tissues, and also how it’s used in video games like Pokemon GO,” Sanchez said. “What’s great about coding is it touches so many facets of our world.”

Sanchez said Google selects the schools that participate in the CS First Roadshow, and he said Oldsmar Elementary was the third school in the state of Florida, and one of more than 40 nationwide, that have participated in the program since its inception in January 2016.

He noted that partnering with school and government officials like OES Principal Jeffrey Moss and Congressman Bilirakis is vital to the success of the initiative in creating future computer science industry workers.

“We identify where we believe the program will best work, and in Oldsmar we enjoyed a fantastic partnership with Principal Moss and Congressman Bilirakis,” Sanchez said. “Today, about 500,000 coding jobs go unfulfilled. So, it’s an area with tremendous need. We want the students to be creators of technology, not just consumers.”

Bilirakis who is known for his dedication to America’s veterans, is also a firm believer in furthering the education of today’s youth.

“To be competitive in the 21st century economy, our children will have to be adept at creating, adapting and innovating,” he said after the event. “Exposure to this type of challenging program at such an early age will help develop these critical skills and give these students an advantage when compared to their international peers. I was proud to bring this opportunity to a school in my district because I know it will help cultivate curiosity and a lifelong love of learning.”

For more information on Googles’ CS First Roadshow program, visit csfirst.withgoogle.com.