Students Showcase Computer Science Skills at Texas CapitolCode @ the Capitol event demonstrates the importance of STEM education in Texasby: Damian HopkinsPublished: Feb. 21, 2023 Feature Story Thirty-five students and 10 teachers from six Texas school districts gathered for Code @ the Capitol to present computer science projects to members of the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. Photo credits: TACC This Valentine’s Day, the love for coding was in the air at the Texas Capitol.Thirty-five students from six Texas school districts gathered for Code @ the Capitol, an event where students presented computer science (CS) projects to members of the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. "Educating the next generation of computer scientists is critical to Texas' future." Presented by Computer Science for Texas (CS4TX), a coalition of industry partners including Google and Amazon, policy makers, parents, educators, and nonprofits all dedicated to improving computer science education in Texas, Code @ the Capitol was designed to highlight to state leaders the amazing things kids can accomplish if given the chance to learn computer science. Throughout the day, students from elementary to high school demonstrated coding projects focused on autonomous cars, robotics, cryptocurrency, and cybersecurity, to name a few. “Educating the next generation of computer scientists is critical to Texas’ future,” said Shawdee Monroe, Google’s U.S. West Regional Tech Education Outreach Lead. “Students need access to the tools and training necessary to help them gain a competitive advantage for future jobs and to thrive in their chosen careers.”“We believe access to these resources are essential and are honored to partner with organizations like CS4TX, who advocate for expansion of computer science education to students across Texas.” A trio of students share a laugh discussing their CS projects during Code @ the Capitol. CS4TX partnered with The University of Texas at Austin's WeTeach_CS team for this event. Led by Carol Fletcher at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the WeTeach_CS team has helped more than 600 Texas educators earn a CS teaching certificate since its inception, serving students from the state’s largest school districts like Houston ISD with over 200,000 students to the smallest school districts like Terlingua CSD, which has just 98 students.Despite this progress, Texas still has a long way to go to bring CS to every student. Currently, just 4.2 percent of Texas high school students took at least one CS class in the 2020-2021 school year. By comparison, 26 percent of high school students in South Carolina took at least one course. "If we want more Texas students to become the creators and innovators of tomorrow, we must build the capacity of our K-12 teachers to offer engaging and robust computer science learning experiences for every student." “If we want more Texas students to become the creators and innovators of tomorrow, we must build the capacity of our K-12 teachers to offer engaging and robust computer science learning experiences for every student,” Fletcher said. “Our state won’t remain a global economic leader if most of our students are sitting on the sidelines of the technology revolution.” Code @ the Capitol students were recognized on the floor of the Texas Senate by state Senator Tan Parker, who is a member of the IT Caucus in the Texas Legislature. “The jobs of the future will be filled by those who have strong computer science fundamentals,” Parker said. “I salute organizations like WeTeach_CS and the great computer science teachers who are preparing our kids for careers in STEM.” "I salute organizations like WeTeach_CS and the great computer science teachers who are preparing our kids for careers in STEM." Participating school districts for Code @ the Capitol included Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Del Valle ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Richardson ISD, and San Antonio ISD. Clear Springs High School senior Janice Thomas wants to be a software developer and use her skills in the public sector. Her project focused on recreating encryption and decryption methods for sending text messages and emails.“I’m inspired by people who didn’t have easy paths into the CS field but ended up in successful careers,” Thomas said. “Hearing the stories told by the Google and Amazon workers proves that no matter who you are, we all can learn valuable career skills by studying CS topics.” A student demonstrates her coding project to Texas state Representative James Talarico, a former Round Rock teacher. “Thanks to our partners in the CS4TX coalition such as Google, Amazon, Dell, Microsoft, the Texas Association of Business, and the IT Caucus, Code @ the Capitol was a great opportunity to put a spotlight on the importance of K-12 computer science education for our citizens and our state,” Fletcher said. “There are five million students currently sitting in Texas classrooms who can use STEM and technology to change the world — it’s our job to equip a broad and diverse range of students to do just that.”Explore the state of CS education schools and districts across Texas with the new Texas CS Education Data Dashboard from WeTeach_CS! The dashboard offers an interactive look at CS teacher certification, enrollment rates, access, equity, and more.