One hour may not be long enough to master a subject, but teachers in the business department at Connellsville Area High School hope it’s enough to light a spark.

In celebration of Computer Science Education Week, held Dec. 3-9, and in an effort to encourage students towards the school’s nascent computer science program, the business department orchestrated an Hour of Code event for about 70 students that featured industry professionals sharing their expertise.

The Hour of Code is a series of events held in schools throughout the world during Computer Science Education Week to teach the basics of computer science over the span of an hour or two.

“We want to showcase the curriculum and get other students interested,” said Tina Gummo, a teacher in the business department.

Connellsville responded to a Computer Science Teachers Association-Pittsburgh offer made to schools throughout the region to send software engineers from the Pittsburgh office of tech giant Google into classrooms to facilitate Hour of Code events during the week, said Gummo.

The school was subsequently selected.

Connellsville hosted Google software engineers who spoke to students about their educational backgrounds in computer science, their career paths in the technology industry and their work at one of the world’s largest technology companies.

The Google employees led coding exercises using Python programming language that students completed using their individual Chromebooks.

Teacher Jeff McWilliams said the skills introduced in the Hour of Code and developed in the school’s computer science courses give students a more versatile repertoire.

“This makes them more well-rounded, and it makes them see that computer science is a crossover with other subject areas,” said McWilliams.

This is the first year that Connellsville has operated a computer science program, which functions within the business department and offers an introductory course and an AP Computer Science Principles course.

The computer science courses supplement the technology courses previously offered by the business department to provide students a background in programming and coding, such as web design, introduction to computer programming and mobile game design.

“Essentially we’re preparing these kids for jobs that don’t exist yet,” said teacher Amy Witt. “If we’re equipping them with these skills, we’re preparing them to be out of the box thinkers.

“They might not be majoring in computer science, but these are skills that will help in a related field,” Witt said. “No matter what field you’re in, you need to have a background in computer science today.”

Junior Dom Prestipino said after experiencing the Hour of Code he would recommend classmates to participate if given the opportunity.

“How we’re progressing as a society, especially with our generation, it (coding) feels like it’s something we should know,” said Prestipino. “Once you learn the commands, you get used to it pretty quick.”

Computer Science Education Week is an annual effort of educational nonprofit Code.org dedicated to inspiring students to take interest in computer science.

Hour of Code was first held by Code.org in 2013 featuring short programming tutorials in which more than 20 million people participated.

This year, more than 212,000 official Hour of Code events were held worldwide throughout the week, including about two dozen in schools throughout Fayette and Greene counties, southwestern Westmoreland County and the Mid-Mon Valley.

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