RIDGELAND, Miss., March 28, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- News media representatives are invited to attend a regional coding challenge today hosted by C Spire, a Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology services company, and designed to encourage and inspire high school students to pursue a degree and career in information technology and computer science.
The day-long C3 program on Wednesday, March 28 at the company's Ridgeland headquarters will feature teams of up to four students each from up to 30 high schools across the state competing for scholarships and other tech-related prizes. Two previous competitions last year featured teams from 43 high schools representing 12 counties and over 200 students.
Students and an adviser from each school will use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve a fresh computer coding challenge during the day-long competition. C Spire has assigned employees with IT backgrounds and experience 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. 2018 has been designated as National S.T.E.M. Year by the National Science Foundation and Code.org to emphasize science, technology, engineering and math education in the U.S.
"Building on our highly successful earlier events, 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 over 1,200 unfilled job openings due to the serious shortage of trained, qualified IT workers, Lewis said. The average salary for qualified IT workers is nearly $69,000 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 be sitting in a Mississippi classroom waiting to be inspired and encouraged to become a leader in the digital economy," Lewis said.
The C3 program can serve as an important first step to increase interest in computer science, according to Lewis. In 2016, only 16 students in the state took the AP computer science exam, but last year the number of students successfully completing the test grew to 105, according to Code.org, a computer science education advocacy group.
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 with the Microsoft-supported Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program are designed to help C Spire deliver on its promise to help create and retain a 21st century technology workforce.
C3 is part of a broader C Spire Tech Movement initiative designed to leverage the company's technology leadership and investments to help transform its service areas. Other elements of the program include creation of a state-of-the-art digital customer care platform for customers and team members, massive deployment of broadband internet for homes and businesses and other leadership initiatives to drive innovation and development of a 21st century technology workforce.
"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.
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SOURCE C Spire