A $40,000 check from Verizon will enable the state to create regional and state computer coding competitions, with the winning team of three students each taking home a $2,000 scholarship award.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday (Sept. 7) the creation of the Governor’s All-Region and All-State Coding Competition during a speech at Hall High School. Hutchinson is touring 12-14 schools to promote his initiative requiring all of the state’s public high schools to teach a computer coding course.
Eight regional competitions will be held simultaneously, with the top two teams qualifying to participate in the All-State Coding Competition. Members of the first place team will receive a $2,000 college scholarship, while the second place team members each win a $1,000 scholarship and the third place team members each win $500. The winning team’s school receives $20,000 for computer equipment. The competition will be open to public and private school students in grades 8-12, as well as homeschooled students.
The check was presented to Hutchinson by Krista Bourne, president of Verizon’s South Central Market. Prizes will be funded privately. The funding is for one year.
Hutchinson led an initiative in 2015 to require Arkansas high schools to offer a computer science class after his granddaughter created a software application for his 2014 campaign. Last year, an estimated 4,000 students participated.
He encouraged the Hall High students to take the course, saying many occupations depend on good-paying coding jobs and that coding is an important element in combating terrorism. Nineteen are enrolled this year.
Afterward, Hutchinson told reporters that Manilla began with 16 students last year under the tutelage of the French teacher who had learned coding, and this year more than 50 are taking the course. Two of last year’s students are now majoring in computer science in college. Greenwood, after a slow start, made the class mandatory for ninth graders and now has more than 400 students and multiple classes from which students can choose.
“What we started as a statewide effort has just blossomed under local leadership and the local school districts and the superintendents and the principals and the teachers owning this and saying, ‘We recognize how important it is,’” he said.