RIDGELAND, Miss., March 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- C Spire, a Mississippi-based wireless, technology and broadband company, will convene its fifth regional coding challenge since 2017 later this week to better prepare students for a high-tech future by encouraging and enabling them to pursue a degree and career in information technology and computer science.
The C Spire coding challenge on Thursday, March 21 at the company's Ridgeland headquarters will feature teams of up to four students each from 33 public and private high schools across 24 counties competing for scholarships and other tech-related prizes. Four previous competitions since April 2017 have involved 88 high schools and over 380 students in 49 counties.
Students and at least one adviser from each school will use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve a fun, fresh computer coding challenge during the day-long competition. C Spire employees with IT backgrounds and experience are volunteering to help each team. Members of the top three teams will receive college scholarships.
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. Lobaki, a Jackson-based virtual reality firm, plans to provide demonstrations throughout the day.
"Building on our earlier highly successful coding challenges, we're planning a fun, entertaining and educational day for all of the students who participate in the program," said Carla Lewis, chief information 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 nearly 1,000 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 over $50,000 a year, 30 percent higher than the statewide average.
"It's never too early to start preparing students for a technology-infused future," Lewis said. Research shows that by the time children in grades K-6 graduate from high school and college, 60 percent will work in jobs and professions that do not exist today. "Jobs and professions constantly evolve and we need to inspire, educate and prepare children for a new tomorrow," she added.
The C3 program can serve as an important first step to increase interest in computer science, Lewis said. In 2018, only 191 students in the state took the AP computer science exam and only 217 students graduated from college with computer science degrees in 2017, according to Code.org, a computer science education advocacy group.
The company-sponsored coding challenges and support for other public and private programs like the Base Camp Coding Academy and a recent partnership with Mississippi State University Research and Curriculum Unit's Center for Cyber Education are designed to help C Spire deliver on its promise to help build a 21st century technology workforce in its region.
C3 is part of a broader C Spire Tech Movement initiative designed to move communities forward through technology with a focus on broadband access, workforce development and innovation.
"We live in a software-defined world where coding and the internet strongly influence every aspect of our lives," Lewis said. "Computer science drives innovation and creates jobs throughout our economy, but we need to do more to train teachers and encourage schools to offer courses for young people to pursue IT and computer science as viable career choices."
To learn more about the C3 coding challenge, visit www.cspire.com/c3. 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.
About C Spire
C Spire is a leading technology company committed to transforming its service areas through the C Spire Tech Movement initiative, which includes broadband deployment, technology innovation and workforce development. 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, cloud and managed IT 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.
SOURCE C Spire