Computer programming initiative CodeMontana reaches milestone


BOZEMAN, Mont. - CodeMontana founder Greg Gianforte said just six weeks after their launch, they surpassed the halfway mark for their sign up goal.

"We're thrilled," Gianforte said. Right now, over 560 high school students are enrolled in the program.

Gianforte launched CodeMontana back in September at the Baucus Economic Development Summit. The initiative offers computer programming exercises for high school students reviewed and graded by volunteer programmers.

The hundreds of students signing up are spread out across the state and from at least 100 different communities, Gianforte said. In some cases, he said teachers are enrolling entire classes.

And he's impressed with how many exercises they've already completed.

"These kids have completed over 14,000 exercises," he said. "They're really digging in deep and learning about computers and hopefully creating a brighter future for themselves."

Gianforte said only 44 people graduated in computer science majors across the state last year- but there's over 400 available jobs in that field in Montana.

"There's demand out there," he said. And, he explained, kids are eager to learn about it. "They've been growing up with gadgets and mobile phones, and they've been users of technology. But this program's all about helping them become creators of technology, and that takes it to a whole other level."

Not only does Gianforte want to see more kids get interested in and learn about computer programming, he wants to see them focus on the subject as they head to college.

"People think if you get a computer science degree, you're going to spend the rest of your life in a closet writing code," Gianforte said. He explained that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Students who get a degree in that field have opportunities for jobs in all areas, he said. From working with clients and developing software, to traveling the word and customer service- there's a large range of jobs in that market.

Over 700 computer programmers from the Montana Programmers organization volunteer to help students with their course work. They act as mentors and tutors, holding each student's hand as they work their way through the program.

He said they also work with the Montana Web Developers and Designers to work with CodeMontana students.

Gianforte said without them, the program just wouldn't be possible.

Every time a student signs up, CodeMontana asks them to write about why they applied.

"We've gotten some great, great feedback," Gianforte said. "One kid said to us, 'You know, I wish my high school taught computer science. They don't. This is a dream come true.'"

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