By Stephanie Bahr, IT Collaborations Strategy
Experiences in the classroom can have a lasting impact on students. By encouraging their natural curiosity, we can inspire young people to realize their potential to pursue any career path, including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related careers.
Monsanto volunteers visited classrooms in the U.S. during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 7-13. More than 500 students at 13 schools participated in 26 sessions conducted by 24 Monsanto ambassadors, who worked alongside students on computer coding activities. Known as the Hour of Code, this movement provides students with the opportunity to learn the basics of coding, while introducing them to the computer science field. Monsanto volunteers enlightened students with their personal career paths in the information technology field and discussed how computer science is impacting all industries including the agriculture and food industry.
We’re pleased to have the opportunity to participate as volunteer mentors with students in our community to help them better understand the increasingly vital role computer science plays both in agriculture and in our daily lives. At Monsanto, we have seen how computer science, which is foundational to understanding data and analytics, has transformed agriculture. We leverage data to make better decisions in our labs and in the field, helping farmers use resources more sustainably to address their needs in real time and providing solutions they will need in the future.
Programs like the Hour of Code help expose young learners to career options in computer science and the positive impact they can have on society. There is a need for more and similar efforts, however, to help drive diverse segments of the population into the IT field. We can get better solutions if we have more diverse teams. For example, since the 1980s, computer science careers have seen a decline in women. What attracted me to computer science is the need to problem solve, a skill that I believe many women have. Problem solving is critical for data scientists, so we need to ensure we are working to attract women to the field.
Once students are inspired, it is important to keep them interested and motivated. That’s why Monsanto has programs focusing on K-12 students and beyond, including our partnership with the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) to provide scholarships and mentoring to students interested in pursuing an academic program related to IT.
Computer science is an underpinning of students’ learning today, just like math, science and typing were to me when I was in school! By getting in front of middle school students and offering them a glimpse of a “day in the life” of an IT professional, they can get a true understanding of what a career in IT involves and job options beyond programming.
For me, it was so encouraging to see and hear about how students use innovation days to work on ways to solve real problems facing our world. A group of young people at Rogers Middle School have committed 20 percent of their classroom time to explore how they can make a difference in the world. At Barrington Elementary, Monsanto’s Malcom Mathis told the children, “Never say I can’t or it’s too hard.” This made such an impression on the students that their teacher heard them repeating his words the rest of the day. Many of us came to Monsanto because we care about the world and want to create sustainable solutions in agriculture. It is exciting to see first-hand how we can impact students seeking careers in computer science, too!
Innovation comes from bright minds with a variety of backgrounds. It’s great to work with this program and these future leaders in STEM.