Arkansas ‘ahead of the curve’ in coding, says STEM director
As Arkansas schools continue to increase their resources when it comes to building students’ computer skills, their technology future and potential are bright, Daniel Moix, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts director of STEM Pathways and Coding Arkansas’ Future, said Wednesday.
Under Governor Asa Hutchinson’s initiative, every school in the state is required to teach computer science, and starting this fall, every school will be required to have its students earn a computer science degree on their transcript. .
“Your young people who will soon be in the workforce will be exposed and I hope this gives you the opportunity to develop the next big thing,” Moix said at the Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon at the DoubleTree by Hilton. . Hot Springs. “That’s what Coding Arkansas’ Future is. It’s kind of what IT is, and I’m really excited to see what’s to come.”
Moix talked about his introduction to computer programming at the Arkansas School for Math and Science, as it was called in the late 1990s.
“Computing is not just coding. Computing is this abstract notion that is hard to pin down, but you can imagine what coding is. Coding, really, is just translating instructions into something you ‘a machine can follow,’ he said.
He used the example of his recent visit to the dentist during which a dental assistant scanned a three-dimensional model of his tooth using a “magic wand” and shortly after printed a crown. .
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“It was just having a machine that we taught to do a job or programmed to do a job. Coding is the process of teaching these machines to do these things. You know, it costs a lot of money to lift something into outer space. And now there are missions that do without the tools needed to repair the ships. But they take their 3D printing machines that have the blueprints to produce the tools,” he said.
“So rather than having a whole toolbox, which is very heavy, and especially having to launch into space, you have filament and you have a machine and you print the tool you need – this which is pretty nifty – and IT enables that,” said Moix.
Although taught by universities and colleges, at the time ASMSA was one, if not the only, school that taught high school students to do this, he said.
“Where could we go if we had a workforce of young people who have never been lost (thanks to GPS-equipped smartphones), who have 100% access to all information known to man – they just need to learn how to be good citizens of the digital world – and have teachers who are empowered and identify as computer science teachers,” he said. “That’s something we we’ve never had, and Arkansas is ahead of the curve in providing that to students across the state.”
Moix explained how the Governor’s Initiative came about and why coding is so important.
“If you know that story, the governor’s granddaughter, Ella Beth, was trying to help him with his campaign and she said, ‘Well, let me make an app. And she helped him by creating an application. He was fascinated that his granddaughter could (do this). And, you know, our governor has a lot of perspective from a national point of view on security and important things like that, and he’s seen how the skill set of people who are not only able to use computers, but who are able to develop solutions and solve problems through computing is valuable,” he said.
Explaining the difference between coding and computing, he said there was “a huge amount of thinking” between the problem and the solution.
“Coding, if we take it as ‘programming the steps into the machine’, coding is just teaching the machine to do the solution,” he said. “Computing involves a lot more human interaction and problem solving…much like the difference between architecture and construction – because the architect has to do the thought process to figure out ‘how can I hold this thing up so it won’t fall?’ and then someone builds it based on the blueprints, so computing has a lot more to offer than just coding.
Noting the benefits of such technological know-how, he said, as with so many things – like being able to find your way around when lost, or having a computer suggesting the cheapest place to buy something, there is a lot of power in understanding how computer works.
“Whether you’re buying software for your business or going on vacation, the power of computing is immense and the value it brings is enormous. And having the people and the manpower to build those systems is really what coding and computing is all about,” he said.
When ASMSA director Corey Alderdice asked Moix to return to ASMSA in 2015 to start the Coding Arkansas’ Future program, there were still half a dozen to a dozen schools teaching computer science, he said. he says, which is not enough to get a skilled workforce “out there to do all the good work that needs to be done.”
All but one of the Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year winners, he said, was a product of ASMSA.
“We are really happy to have empowered so many computer science teachers in the state and we do that by providing them with a curriculum, we give them the lessons to teach, we provide them with the support, we have office hours every week and if something happens away in the classroom, they can reach us,” he said.