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CNM event brings the power of coding to local students

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eighty Albuquerque students learned computer coding basics at Central New Mexico Community College last week, joining a movement that aims to teach the high-demand skill to millions of children around the world.

CNM opened its downtown STEMulus Center and Montoya Campus to kids of all ages for the fourth annual “Hour of Code,” a free event held in over 180 countries.

Parents and students gathered around tablets and computers to play a game that features Disney’s newest heroine, Moana, and her friend, the god Maui.

Enter the correct commands, and the pair sail smoothly to a leaping school of fish. Do it wrong, and they’re off into the empty ocean.

“These tools are good and they make it easy,” said John Mierzwa, director of STEMulus Initiatives. “It is very self-directed.”

At its most basic, coding is about entering a set of instructions or rules that a computer can understand.

Sixteen-year-old Chris Walters picked up pretty quickly after a little trial and error.

He attended with his twin siblings, Anna and Gabby Walters, 16, who attend Digital Arts & Technology Academy charter school with him.

LaMonica Whittaker-Walker brought her three children – ages 2, 5 and 7 – to give them an appreciation of science.

“They play with iPads all the time, so I wanted to expose them to this,” she said. “They may not get it all, but we can talk about it later.”

Students can also return to the Moana game and a selection of others online at Code.org any time.

The nonprofit site began the Hour of Code movement, which is “dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.”

Roughly 45 percent of participants are female and 48 percent are minorities.

President Barack Obama participated in the 2014 Hour of Code. This year, in a video on the Code.org website, a variety of international sports superstars are encouraging participation, including tennis star Serena Williams, basketball star Kobe Bryant and soccer stars Neymar and Sergio Ramos.

Next year, CNM will likely host Hour of Code at all of its campuses to accommodate more students, Mierzwa said.

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