Martha Roby: There’s an app for that

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I’m a big believer in helping our students prepare for the careers of tomorrow. I’ve had a lot to say about the great work our state is doing to promote career and technical education and how Congress is supporting those efforts through funding and policy improvements. Wherever there is an emerging industry with the opportunity for job growth, we need to be helping students develop the skills to compete for those jobs. With industries like auto manufacturing and aerospace, Alabama has proven we can compete with anyone in the world. Now, under the leadership of Governor Kay Ivey and Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker, there are some very exciting opportunities on the horizon with the computer science industry in our state.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District will be actively participating in the 2017 Congressional App Challenge. From now until November, I will be encouraging high school students to submit their original computer, tablet, or smartphone application designs. Submissions will be judged by a panel of local computer science educators and innovators, and the winner will be invited to Washington, D.C. to show off their design in the U.S. Capitol.

For decades, Congress has sponsored an art competition to encourage high school students’ participation in the arts. Every year, my staff and I very much look forward to getting to host the art competition winners in Washington, D.C. and display their work in the Capitol. This year’s winning piece actually went viral on social media for its beautiful design and clever name.

A few years ago, Congress voted to host a similar competition for coding and computer science. The Internet Education Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit entity was selected to be the official sponsor for the academic completion, and several corporate sponsors in the tech industry have signed on as well.

Given the tremendous growth of the coding industry, it makes sense to encourage students’ participation in this emerging field. For most of us, the idea of designing the code to run computer or phone applications is difficult to grasp.  But, if you think about it, we now use computer applications every day to interact with each other, pay bills, or play games. For every application there is a team of designers and coding engineers, which is why computer science is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for a computer programmer is just under $80,000 a year or more than $38 an hour.

I’m especially pleased to see several high schools around the state develop coursework for coding and computer science. Houston Academy in Dothan, LAMP High School and Catholic High School in Montgomery, Elmore County High School in Eclectic, and Prattville High School all have Advanced Placement Computer Science courses where students are learning cutting-edge skills. In fact, this week I will be visiting Prattville High School’s new AP Computer Science class to see the instruction firsthand.

I am eager to get students at Prattville and all throughout our state involved in the Congressional App Challenge. If you’re a parent or an educator interested in getting your students involved, please contact my office or visit www.CongressionalAppChallenge.us for more information. The deadline to submit an application is November 1, so don’t delay. I hope to make this an annual competition throughout Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.

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Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.

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