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Christian Michael of Google talks to students at CentennialCoinciding with Computer Science Week and the Worldwide Day of Code, the annual District-wide “Hour of Code” is designed to reveal to scholars at all grade levels the power of computer programming (coding) and the bright future that awaits those who choose a career in the computer field.
A one-hour introduction to computer science using fun activities to show that anybody can learn the basics, the Hour of Code campaign is supported by more than 200,000 educators worldwide.
While future computer scientists and software engineers at the elementary level programmed Cue and Dash Robots and Code-a-Pillars, spelled wintery words in binary code to make candy cane ornaments, and took part in a dance party using block codes, their older counterparts were treated to informative presentations by a team of Google engineers and computer professionals, led by South graduate Christian Michael.
Mr. Michael, a Google Senior Program Manager who facilitates this important partnership with the District, presented to the scholars of Dutch Clark Digital at Paragon after a visit to his beloved South High School.
“It’s awesome being back at South: I mean, it’s surreal,” Mr. Michael said. “It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been back here. And it’s cool to see a photo of a singing group I was with at South still on the wall. It feels like I’ve never left.”
With 10 members of Team Google speaking to scholars at all District high schools, the goal was to not only shed light into the world of computer science but offer a glimpse into the wealth of employment opportunities in the digital arena.
“We want to get folks interested in careers in computer science and give them an idea of what’s available,” Mr. Michael explained. “It doesn’t have to be a computer programmer: there are a lot of different industries where they can apply coding and computer science skills.”
At Dutch Clark Digital at Paragon, Mr. Michael’s presentation centered on Machine Learning, the same topic that software engineer Stephane Belmon addressed before Central STEM students.
As the guests of Mr. Michael and Mr. Belmon learned, Machine Learning is an application of Artificial Intelligence that enables systems to learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.A young boy sets up a robot at Bradford during the hour of code
This is the science behind chatbots and predictive text, language translation apps, social media feeds, emails automatically routed into the “spam” folder and vehicles that drive themselves.
Machine Learning also has important implications in the world of health care.
“There is a client I am working with that is using Machine Learning to identify lung cancer,” Mr. Michael told the scholars and staff of Dutch Clark Digital at Paragon.
“How? The system is taking these pictures of people who have lung cancer, and tagging it as ‘lung cancer,’ and comparing that to images of people who do not have lung cancer.”
Through Machine Learning, the system then assesses new pictures of patients “to identify, with a great degree of accuracy, if that individual will have lung cancer.”
To enter the rewarding field of Machine Learning, listeners learned, does not require a four-year degree. With six months of study, a Machine Learning Engineer credential can be earned, leading to a starting salary near $120,000.
Googlers also presented on such topics as “How the Internet Really Works,” “Life of a Software Engineer,” “How to Avoid Misinformation on the Internet,” and “Cybersecurity,” capped by panel discussions at Centennial.
All presentations were followed by “Q and A” sessions that allowed scholars to access additional information related to their particular interests.
And in addition to knowledge, the District scholars received Google "swag," from T-shirts to ornaments to hair ribbons.
The District’s Hour of Code was once again led by Paula Herraez, the District’s 21st-Century skills Coach.
“Originally, it was the District’s commitment to the Hour of Code that inspired Mr. Michael to offer his support,” noted Dalton Sprouse, the District’s Director of Communication. “And through this support, and the generosity of Team Google in presenting to our scholars, we continue to see Hour of Code grow and flourish, benefitting our scholars by exposing them to the many personally and financially rewarding careers that the computer science field offers.”