The U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference, Day 2

Code.org co-founder and CEO Hadi Partovi talks about how even little kids can learn to code.

Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of code.org, speaking at the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference in Washington, D.C., on Thurs., April 24, 2014.

Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of code.org, speaking at the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference in Washington, D.C., on Thurs., April 24, 2014.

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The U.S. News STEMS Solution Conference kicked off this week with more than 1,100 experts, educators, innovators and industry leaders coming together at the Walter E. Washington Convention center in Washington, D.C., to discuss STEM education in the United States. During the second day of the conference, attendees heard keynote addresses from Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of code.org; Tamara Hudgins, executive director of Girlstart; Matthew Peterson, co-founder, CEO and senior scientist of MIND Research Institute (ST Math); and Terri Stripling, owner of Ten80 Education. All four shared stories of their efforts to make computer science more accessible, and pointed out that the key to breaking down stereotypes and making coding cool is to introduce it to kids early on.

"It's a field that, once you get into it, it's actually quite fun," Partovi told U.S. News after the keynote. "And it's become easier and more fun, because there's cooler things that you can produce now."

[SPECIAL REPORT: The U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index]

Games are a natural introduction to coding, and his company's "Hour of Code" initiative allowed kids to learn the basics of computer programming by dragging and dropping pieces of code to create their own simple game. Online at learn.code.org, people can program their own "Flappy Bird" game in just a few minutes: Each step in the program is presented as a puzzle that kids (or adults) can solve. Clicking a button shows the actual underlying code. By the time you get to the 10th puzzle, you're playing your own customized game, no complicated computer language knowledge required.

"We launched this four months ago, and it's already in 20,000 classrooms," Partovi said. Teachers can sign up for free and access the open-source program to share with their students. And Partovi is adamant that elementary school is not to early to start learning to code.

"If you talk about computer science and coding, people put it in the same bucket as calculus and quantum mechanics," he said. "Their impression is this whiz kid. Movies like "The Matrix" show a kid in a dark basement with green letters falling down the screen, and people assume that's what it's like."

"The media has held up the idea of the boy genius coder, and the reality is that 9-year-old girls can pick this up," he continued. "Now, not every 9-year-old can end up starting a company or creating the next Google. But every 9-year-old girl can learn the basics."

Watch the entire keynote session below.


Missed a break-out session? Click on the links below for recaps.

Thursday, April 24
10:45 a.m. to noon

Session Title Hashtag
Double Session Connecting the Dots: Building K-12 STEM awareness  #ConnectDots
1C Bridging the Gap: Overcoming STEM Fatigue #BridgeGap
2C Customized Credentials Come of age #Customcred
5C Music, Magic, and More #MMMstem
10C Expert Roundtables #STEMexpert
11C EXECUTIVE WORKSHOP: The Common Core Backlash #BacklashCC
12C STEM CHANGE-MAKER One-on-One #STEM1on1


Thursday, April 24
2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Session Title Hashtag
1D Report from the Teaching Front #TeachFront
4D Making STEM Stick in Middle School #MiddleSTEM
5D Science and Discovery #SciDisc
7D (double session) The STEM School Advantage (2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. and 3:30-4:45) #SSAdvance
10D Expert Roundtable #STEMexpert
11D EXECUTIVE WORKSHOP: The STEM Crisis Myth #MythSTEM
13D Market Insights: Teach Interactive Design & STEM with Unity 3D #STEMinsight


Thursday, April 24
3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Session Title Hashtag
3E Fast Track to a Paycheck #FTto$
4E Cutting Edge Science #CutEdgeSci
5E STEM Hollywood style #STEMhlwd
8E Closing the Management Gender Gap #CloseGenderGap
11E Executive Workshop: The Holy Grail: Scalability #HolyScale


For more coverage of the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference, please visit usnews.com/stem and follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #STEMSolve.


TAGS:
STEM jobs
STEM education
  • Lylah Alphonse

    Lylah M. Alphonse is the Managing Editor of News for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or e-mail her at LAlphonse@usnews.com.