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BOISE, Idaho (Dec. 7, 2020) -- Idaho Gov. Brad Little has proclaimed Dec. 7-13 Computer Science Education Week in Idaho and urges the state's citizens to participate in the Hour of Code.

"Job opportunities in computer science will continue to grow, and introducing our students to computer science early on will expose them to real-world experiences and strengthen critical thinking skills that will serve them throughout their lives," Gov. Little said.

Hour of Code participants can code alongside Gov. Little and other special guests throughout the week in prerecorded sessions, including former NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and the Idaho STEM Action Center's new interim executive director, Dr. Kaitlin Maguire.

Students also can code with game designers. Idaho-based Blocksmith VR has created "Don't Yeet the Yeti," an Hour of Code activity for beginners, and game creators have prerecorded an hour-long session students can follow along with this week. The game teaches students how to edit and create conditional statements and then they're tasked with completing an unfinished game by adding JavaScript code to rescue a yeti and its friends. If the code doesn't work, then the yeti is yeeted, i.e., tossed from the game. Visit blocksmithxr.com/blog/openhourofcode for instructions on how to navigate to the game.

The Idaho STEM Action Center is holding a social media contest for Hour of Code participants this week, too, with prizes like Raspberry Pi computers. To enter, follow the STEM Action Center on Facebook (@IdahoSTEMAC) or Instagram (IdahoSTEMAC). Snap a picture of how you participated and tag it with #CodingIdaho, #CSEdWeek, and #IdahoSTEMAC. U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) is among several noteworthy Gem State residents taking part in the social media campaign.

Visit the STEM Action Center's computer science page at STEM.idaho.gov/computerscience to watch Gov. Little's proclamation, code alongside our special guests, learn how to attend the Blocksmith VR's coding session with its "Don't Yeet the Yeti" game designers, and find more CS activities and resources.

Hour of Code is a global movement Code.org founded in 2013 that reaches tens of millions of students age 4 to 104 in more than 180 countries. Hour of Code events offer a one-hour introduction to computer science and the basics of coding via fun tutorials in over 45 languages.

Hour of Code 2020 coincides with international Computer Science Week, which is playing host to more than 68,000 events worldwide this year, including more than 16,000 in the U.S. The event is held annually in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (Dec. 9, 1906). Among her many important contributions is Common Business-Oriented Language. COBOL was the first high-level programming language developed with someone other than a mathematician in mind and earned Hopper the title "Queen of Code."

Idaho STEM Action Center interim executive director Dr. Kaitlin Maguire said organizations statewide are hosting about 100 Hour of Code events this year -- some virtual, some in-person -- that are important to Idaho's continued prosperity.

"Educators are increasingly referring to coding as 'the fourth R' -- reading, writing, arithmetic, and algorithms -- because computers and technology play such an essential role in everyday life," she said. "Computer science is one of the most in-demand college degrees, computing is used in a variety of careers, and strong demand is expected for computer occupations, such as IT security and software development -- especially here in Idaho, where our tech sector is one of the fastest growing in the nation."

According to the Idaho Dept. of Labor, 19 of Idaho's top-20 hot jobs through 2026 require STEM skills -- with applications software developers and information security analysts among the top-five in-demand fields. It predicts demand for applications software developers and information security analysts will grow by 30 percent annually between 2016-2026.

Code.org reports the average salary for a computing occupation in Idaho is $71,947, which is significantly higher than the state's overall average salary of $43,480.

Dr. Maguire said Idaho has made tremendous progress in expanding computer science instruction in the last five years, from creating a state plan to fill instructional gaps in computer science offerings to establishing K-12 standards and requiring that all high schools offer a computer science course. She said the STEM Action Center continues to work to improve CS education and develop a computer-literate workforce in Idaho.

Visit STEM.idaho.gov/computerscience, hourofcode.com, code.org, and csedweek.org for more information, and visit csunplugged.org for activities that don't involve screen time.

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