(Information provided by C Spire)
Three Jackson-area elementary schools claimed the top three spots in the second annual statewide C Spire C3 Jr. coding challenge that pitted teams of fourth-grade students from 15 public and private schools across 14 counties competing for bragging rights and tech-related prizes.
Madison Ridgeland Academy won first place in the competition at the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson on Thursday, Sept. 19, with Barak H. Obama Elementary in Jackson placing second and Eastside Elementary School in Clinton finishing in third place. All three teams won a trophy, an iPad tablet, the Cue robot, and other related tech prizes.
This was the second statewide coding challenge for elementary school students convened by C Spire, a Mississippi-based wireless, technology and broadband company, and MCM to better prepare students for a high-tech future by encouraging and enabling them to use problem-solving, critical thinking and computational skills to navigate the half-day challenge.
The C3 Jr. coding challenge featured teams of up to four students, at least one advisor from each school and C Spire employees with IT backgrounds and experience who helped them navigate an obstacle course and showcase their creative and technical abilities, which was part of the three-day Mississippi Science Fest celebration of computer science and information technology.
Mississippi Science Fest, in its fourth year, was named in 2018 as the small festival of the year by the Mississippi Tourism Association and a Top 20 event by the Southern Tourism Society. The event celebrates the growing interest and need for students who specialize in academic degrees and job applicants in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“It was a fun, entertaining and educational half-day for all of the students who participated in the challenge,” said Carla Lewis, chief technology officer for C Spire. “Programs and partnerships with organizations like the MCM can help inspire and encourage young people 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 nearly 1,144 unfilled job openings due to the serious shortage of trained, qualified IT workers, Lewis said. The average entry-level salary for qualified junior IT workers is nearly $70,000 a year, almost double the statewide average.
“It’s never too early to start preparing students for the tech jobs of tomorrow,” said MCM President and CEO Susan Garrard. Research shows that by the time elementary-age children graduate from high school and college, 85% will work in jobs and professions that do not exist today. “Jobs and professions constantly change and we need to evolve to be successful.”
C3 Jr. is part of the broader C Spire Tech Movement designed to help move the region forward through improvements in broadband access, workforce development, and innovation. Rapid progress in the development of a 21st-century technology workforce is a key element of the Tech Movement.
To learn more about the C Spire Tech Movement and how businesses and individuals can volunteer or financially support these workforce development initiatives, visit www.cspire.com/techmvmt.