Microsoft's Miguel Juárez López Volunteers with Mission Techies as Part of Worldwide "Hour of Code"

2607-12022016_wfd-microsoft-teaches-mission-techies-coding-social-media-image_blogDec. 5 to 11 is Computer Science Education Week. The goal: to share an “Hour of Code” in middle and high schools as part of a global event held in 192 countries.

Knowing that coding skills can launch a great career in tech, Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy’s Thea Smith Nilsson brought Microsofties volunteer Miguel Juárez López to MEDA’s Digital Opportunity Center to teach code to the current cohort of Mission Techies. This free program is creating a pipeline for diversity in tech.

Smith Nilsson is also part of Full Circle Fund, which that organization describes as “an active network of professionals who leverage their time, talent and connections to help nonprofit organizations launch new initiatives, make a greater impact and accelerate positive change in our community.” In 2015, Full Circle Fund worked over the course of that year on the refinement of the curriculum for the Mission Techies program.

The “Hour of Code” session started with the Mission Techies telling their stories of how they wound up in the 12-week program. Luis, who was born and raised in San Francisco, stated, “I really like working with computer hardware, plus I wanted to learn about coding.” He was in the right place.

The 60-minute tutorial harnessed the power of BBC micro:bit. The possibilities are endless with micro:bit, with end products running the gamut from robots to musical instruments. In the United Kingdom, every seventh-grader gets a microbit.

Microsoft Senior Software Engineer Juárez López (photo, left) emigrated from the southern state of Tabasco, Mexico. As a boy, he always dreamed of Silicon Valley, a place where he thought cars flew through the air. Obsessed with playing video games, he knew he couldn’t turn avocation into vocation, but he could develop the games and make a solid living. This became clear when he coded his first Tic-Tac-Toe game. Juárez López was hooked.

It took three tries, but through diligence and the garnering of a deeper knowledge of coding, Juárez López landed a job with Microsoft. (Offered working in the Seattle-area office or in Silicon Valley, he of course chose the latter, the land of flying cars!)

For yesterday’s “Hour of Code,” Juárez López chose JavaScript, although most other languages are available via micro:bit. Juárez López started with a “Roll the Dice” tutorial. The aim was to use coding to have each Mission Techies’ micro:bit show a random number, from one to six, when the device was shaken. To abet learning, there are four levels available. The first level offers a simple intro, with a drag and drop method, while the fourth level is pure code. This enables coders to build up their skills at their own speed.

Another tutorial taught how to write code so that the micro:bit showed a sad face when angled one way and a happy face when turned the other way. The Mission Techies’ had their own happy faces when they successfully completed this task. This was coupled with the fact that volunteer Juárez López showed that coding could be fun.

Juárez López explained why he chose to volunteer today as follows: “The way I imagined Silicon Valley, while growing up in Mexico, was a place where everybody had equal access to all kinds of high tech, especially at schools. When I moved here five years ago, I was disappointed to discover that not only was that untrue, but also change wasn’t coming soon enough. That’s why I consider it my responsibility as an engineer to help fill this gap by volunteering to teach coding.”

After just one hour, it was readily apparent that the participants had whet their appetites for all things code.

“It was an honor to have Microsoft at Plaza Adelante today. I truly appreciate Microsoft’s continued support of the Mission Techies program. Thanks to Thea and Miguel for stopping by,” summed up MEDA Technology Training Coordinator Leo Sosa.

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