Coding as a Second Language

Coding as a Second Language

Growing up in the shadow of the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower in Milwaukee, my parents ensured that I was bilingual. This was something I always knew I wanted to pass along to my children (Olivia is two and Xavier is six months).

They say that children can easily learn more than one language and everyday Olivia proves that to be true.

While English is her dominant language she also speaks Spanish and is very good with sign language. I feel like sometimes I’m her biggest obstacle because I need to make a conscious decision to switch between languages or often say things twice.

As I see her flourish we’ve decided her next language will be coding. Yes, coding. It’s a global language. And here’s why: Just like my parents I dream of a better future for my children.

While we don’t know what the jobs of the future will be, we do know some of the skills necessary - and all signs point to coding being a basic language.

Girls are especially more likely to major in computer science if they try it

Tech jobs are among the fastest growing in the country, yet girls are being left behind. While interest in computer science ebbs over time, the biggest drop happens between the ages of 13-17.

By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. U.S. graduates are on track to fill 29% of those jobs. Women are on track to fill just 3%, according to Girls Who Code.

Rockwell Automation and FANUC are committed to supporting STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) across the globe. Watch FIRST Robotics students operate the robots at Automation Fair 2015 while executives from both companies discuss the importance of developing the next generation of engineers through STEM education.

Inspiring little learners to be big thinkers

So how are we going to expose Olivia to coding? She already knows how to unlock the iPad and has her learning games. It is my goal that she understands how those apps and games are made and the fun behind building her own.

There are many resources available especially on the internet. We are starting simple with code.org games and the code-a-pillar toy.

I believe these first steps will build the foundation for problem solving and critical thinking skills.

I’m fortunate to lead our company’s philanthropic investments, particularly our STEM advocacy and volunteer efforts.

We strongly encourage our employee volunteers to foster curiosity in our young people. For me that starts at home, it means putting down my phone and being present for those precious few hours I have with my children every night.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes the endless “why” questions test my patience; however, I remind myself that this is how Olivia is learning.

We need to encourage that curiosity for how and why things work the way they do.

It’s also really important to have FUN! This is especially true for girls. Even at such young age, Olivia is a sponge and repeats everything she sees and hears.

I want her to see no limits to who she can be. Olivia deserves that; all our young girls deserve that!

Join us

I get involved for many reasons – including my daughter. If you haven’t, I invite you to try the Hour of Code yourself, with a young person in your life and/or in a local classroom.

I’m confident not only will you inspire a young mind but you will help engineer our future.

Patricia Contreras
Posted December 5, 2016 By Patricia Contreras, Director Global Community Relations and Contributions, Rockwell Automation
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