The five Buffalo High School students in the Girls Who Code Club received some exciting news from Washington, D.C., last week. An app they created for Buffalo Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program won the Congressional App Challenge for the state of Wyoming. Sheridan College instructor Mark Thoney worked with the students to develop the app, which streamlines the Buffalo Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program.
The CAC is an initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students to encourage them to learn to code and inspire them to pursue careers in computer science. Since the program began, over 14,000 students have created thousands of functional apps.
Buffalo High School students Teagen Sweckerd, Addysen Sweckard, Shelbi Kovar, Georgia Wages and Seren Chapin started the club in April 2018 with the goal of creating an app. At the time, none of the students knew how to code. Cameron Kukuchka, Buffalo High School technology director, heard about their idea and contacted Thoney to help them get started. Over the next five months, Thoney met with the students in Buffalo once a week and periodically worked with them remotely on the project.
“Some of the students are definitely considering careers in computer science now as a result of this project. We met seven or eight times to work on code, so they picked it up really fast,” said Thoney. “It’s so exciting that they were able to deliver the final project and put Buffalo on the map for excellence in computer science.”
Thoney’s work with the Girls Who Code students is just one example of an ongoing collaboration between Sheridan College and schools in Johnson County to implement computer science into the classroom. Once a week, Thoney travels to Buffalo to teach high school students in Sweckerd’s Introduction to Computer Science class.
“We’re there to augment the skill set in an area that’s really hard to find in this area,” said Thoney.
Because of the time he spends at the high school, Thoney is able to serve as a resource for Johnson County students who have shown an aptitude for computer science and may be interested in developing an independent project, just like the Meals on Wheels app.
During the 2018 Budget Session, the Wyoming Legislature passed Senate Enrolled Act 0048, which added computer science and computational thinking to the state educational program.
“The schools are coming up with and implementing the curriculum. We are here to support teachers in any way we can and utilize the resources we have access to as college instructors to help support the state’s initiative to implement computer science curriculums,” said Thoney.
Thoney and fellow Sheridan College computer science instructor, Ann Gunn, recently completed a similar partnership over the last three years with Sheridan High School.
“I tell students that learning to code is like a golden ticket. By partnering with local schools to help them build a comprehensive computer science curriculum, students will come to college prepared to dive in to advanced training,” said Thoney.
According to Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities, there are currently 498 open computing jobs in Wyoming, 5.2 times the state average demand rate. The average salary for computing occupations in Wyoming is $63,223, which is significantly higher than the average salary in the state of $46,840.
For more information about the CAC, a complete list of winners from every state, and to view the Meals on Wheels submission video, go to www.congressionalappchallenge.us/2018-winners/.