It Starts with STEM: Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build Events for Middle Schoolers Aim to Teach More Than Programming

Teaching kids to code: It’s a cause celebre in the high-tech world, especially for fast-growing companies in need of homegrown talent. Industry giants including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are putting their names and philanthropic dollars behind the effort to build up the STEM talent reserve in a big way.

So what really happens when you teach middle school kids to code? It turns out that they get more than a lesson about how to build a computer game or killer app.

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They learn critical 21st century skills such as logic, problem-solving and analytical thinking. They learn to apply mathematics (too often a dry subject in the classroom) to exciting, hands-on activities that require problem solving, attention to detail, teamwork and discipline. They gain confidence in their ability to use these tools in ways that lead to exciting careers and – Broadcom hopes – are inspired to stay with learning code and take advanced math courses into high school.

Coding and related skillsets don’t just make for a brilliant computer programmer; they’re essential tools for personal success in college, myriad careers or for application in the trades.

That’s the push behind a Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build, spearheaded by Broadcom Foundation, in partnership with the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., announced today.

Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build features a series of interactive math and coding events geared toward middle-school students, with special emphasis on engaging societal groups that are currently underrepresented in computing fields, especially young women.

This week, Broadcom Chief Executive Scott McGregor and Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales Michael Hurlston are set to join about 200 Broadcom employees at the Computer History Museum to premier the new Broadcom Foundation program.

Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build aims to introduce young people to foundational skills that will be vital for future careers. With economists foreseeing that roughly half of U.S. jobs will require mastery of at least one STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) discipline, there’s a real concern that schools aren’t able to fill the knowledge gap.

“Broadcom is committed to encouraging young people to be technology innovators, not just technology consumers,” McGregor said. “As a company that relies upon the skills of engineers to create the wonderful products that use our chips, we are keenly aware that we must expand the number of young people who can see an exciting future in the engineering and computer fields. Without expanding the talent pool coming down the pipeline, virtually every company that relies on digital technology, whether for computer products, finance or entertainment, is at risk and Broadcom has aligned its philanthropic goals to help solve this looming crisis.”

Part of the solution is to engage and inspire middle school students through initiatives such as this new program.

“The untapped talent reserve of young people in the Bay Area need direction and inspiration if they are to become our future engineers and innovators,” said Paula Golden, Executive Director, Broadcom Foundation and Director, Community Affairs at Broadcom. “By partnering with a renowned learning institution like the Computer History Museum, we are building a program that not only reaches the kids at their initial point of inquiry, but we hope to continue our work with them through a concerted volunteer outreach initiative in concert with the museum and our regional partners in business and education.”

Computer History Museum exterior shotThe program offers four day-long workshops designed to introduce students to the basic concepts of coding. Students will work in teams and engage in hands-on activities that can include learning to build a robot using the Raspberry Pi microcomputer or navigating a maze using Logic Turtle.

But that’s just part of the experience. Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build also provides students with the opportunity to meet “Technology Rock Stars,” industry notables who will inspire them to envision themselves as future engineers and innovators.

A Rock Star will kick off each workshop and share stories about their own youth, their challenges and successes along their career path and answer questions about how to pursue a career in tech.

Students will also learn first-hand about the giants in the computing field throughout the last century through docent-led tours of Computer History Museum exhibits.

Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build collaborates with community organizations such as Aim High and SMASH Prep/Level Playing Field Institute, which provide services to middle school girls and minorities.

“Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build will help connect the dots between basic computer coding and the exciting careers that await these kids if they stay with mathematics through high school,” Golden said.

Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build will open to the public on November 15.  For more information, visit the Broadcom Foundation and Computer History Museum websites or visit Broadcom Foundation’s Newsroom and read the B-Inspired Blog.  To stay connected, visit the Broadcom and Computer History Museum Facebook pages and follow Broadcom Foundation on Twitter.