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Area students participate in ‘Hour of Code’

On Friday, students from West Fargo High School and Cheney Middle School participated in the first Hour of Code, an international event that was a part of Computer Science Education Week and spearheaded by the Microsoft TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) team.

The students were part of an estimated 2 million students around the world that took part in the Hour of Code.

At the high school, students were encouraged to stop in the library during their free period and take part in online tutorials – featuring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, among others – on the ins and outs of computer science, including coding for an Angry Birds-like video game.

“It is very broad event,” West Fargo High School assistant principal Dan Holder said. “You just want students to get some exposure to what it is like to program a computer. We have all used computers and experienced the feeling when a computer doesn’t do what you want it to do. This is way of pulling back the hood a bit and figuring out how to make a computer do what you want to do.”

The movement, organized by and supported by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and over 100 other entities, is a statement that today’s generation of students are ready to learn critical skills for 21st century success.

“If (students) can get into computers early enough and are ready to learn, then, if they want to go into computer science, they already have a little insight on what it takes for a computer to execute a process,” high school student Matthew Zent said.

Matt Samson, a software designer at Microsoft for the last seven years, sees the TEALS program and the Hour of Code as a way to prepare students for a job at companies like Microsoft and Google.

“There is a really big deficit between available computer positions and people that are available to fill those roles,” Samson said. “The need is far greater than our ability to supply that demand. Companies all around the country are having a hard time hiring the people they need.”

While students can be properly educated in computer science at the college level, having some exposure to it at a younger age can provide a huge advantage in the future, according to Samson.

“I have experience interviewing a lot of college students, and I know from there that a lot of people would benefit from getting exposure well before they show up for college,” Samson said. “Getting that exposure in college is just too late, and a lot of people show up to college already knowing what they want to do.”

This is the first year of TEALS classes in West Fargo High School, and Holder wouldn’t be surprised to see it thrive in the coming years.

“Some people have even referred to computer programming as a new foreign language,” Holder said. “Hopefully, we will see this program continue to grow.”

For more information on the Hour of Code, visit