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C3 Jr. Coding Challenge for Elementary School Students Scheduled for Sept. 19
2019-09-05

C Spire, Mississippi Children’s Museum team up to spur more interest in IT-related jobs and careers

Jackson, Miss., (September 5, 2019) – C Spire and the Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM) are teaming up again to offer a regional coding challenge involving elementary school-age children later this month designed to encourage and inspire students to pursue an academic degree or career in information technology and computer science.

The half-day C3 Jr. program on Thursday, Sept. 19 at the MCM in northeast Jackson will feature teams of up to four students each from 15 public and private elementary schools across the region competing for bragging rights and tech-related prizes. C3 Jr. will help kick off the three-day 2019 Mississippi Science Fest in the LeFleur Museum District from Sept. 19-21.

Students and a teacher or sponsor from each school will use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to navigate an obstacle course and showcase their creative and technical abilities during the competition. C Spire has assigned employees with IT backgrounds and experience to help each team. Members of the top three teams will receive trophies and tech-related prizes.

“We’re excited about partnering again with C Spire to host a statewide coding event for elementary age children,” said Susan Garrard, president and CEO of the Mississippi Children’s Museum. “This is a great way to kick off three days of focus on the importance of technology education, digital literacy and our need to build a 21st century workforce in Mississippi.”

Pepper, a four-foot tall humanoid robot from Softbank Robotics America with a tablet for a chest, also will be on hand interacting with students and other guests participating in the competition. The Mississippi Science Festival was named by the Mississippi Tourism Association as the “small festival of the year” in 2018 and a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

“Building on our highly successful C3 Jr. coding challenge last year, we’re planning exciting, age-appropriate activities for the younger students who participate in the program,” said Carla Lewis, chief technology officer for C Spire. “Hopefully, we can inspire and encourage them to seriously consider IT and computer science as an academic and career path.”

Workers with a background in computer science are in high demand and short supply in Mississippi. Employers currently have 1,144 unfilled job openings due to the serious shortage of trained, qualified IT workers, Lewis said. The average salary for qualified IT workers is nearly $70,000 a year, almost double the statewide average.

Nationwide, research estimates that there will be a shortage of over 1 million software developers in the U.S. by 2020. “For all we know, the inventor of the next big thing or innovative app or software may attend this coding challenge waiting to be inspired and encouraged to become a leader in the rapidly evolving digital economy,” Lewis said.

The C3 and C3 Jr. programs can serve as important first steps to increase interest in computer science, Lewis said. Slow progress is being made, according to Code.org, a computer science advocacy group. In 2017, only 105 students in the state took the AP computer science exam, but last year the number of students successfully completing the test grew to 191.

Lewis said the company-sponsored coding challenges and support for other public and private programs like the Base Camp Coding Academy and a recent partnership on a pilot program with the Mississippi Department of Education’s Computer Science for Mississippi is designed to help C Spire deliver on its promise to help quickly create and retain more IT jobs in the state.

C3 and C3 Jr. are part of a broader C Spire Tech Movement initiative designed to help move the region forward through improvements in broadband access, workforce development and innovation. Rapid progress in development of a 21st century technology workforce is a key element of the initiative. To learn more, go to www.cspire.com/techmvment.

“We live in a software-defined world where coding and the internet strongly influence just about every aspect of our lives,” Lewis said. “Computer science drives innovation and creates thousands of jobs throughout our economy, but we need to do more to encourage schools to offer courses and for young people to pursue IT and computer science as viable career choices.”

About C Spire
C Spire is a leading technology company committed to transforming Mississippi through the C Spire Tech Movement, which includes the massive deployment of broadband internet to homes and small businesses, a state-of-the-art digital experience for its customers and team members, technology innovation leadership and the creation and retention of a 21st century technology workforce in its region. The company provides world-class, customer-inspired wireless communications, 1 Gigabit consumer Internet access as well as a full suite of dedicated Internet, wireless, IP Voice, data and cloud services for businesses. This news release and other announcements are available at www.cspire.com/news. For more information about C Spire, visit www.cspire.com or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cspire or Twitter at www.twitter.com/cspire.