The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of Feb. 19, 2016:
Last week, I enjoyed visiting with several students who competed in the Congressional App Challenge. The competition was designed to encourage high school students to use computer coding to create their own apps. The students I met were bright, energetic, capable and full of ideas. After meeting with them, I am even more excited about the future of our state and the future of our kids.
Arkansas leaders and educators are on board with the coding initiative, and I applaud Congressman Bruce Westerman for hosting the Congressional App Challenge in Arkansas’s fourth district. In total, 26 students across seven school districts competed in this year’s challenge. The 11 projects came from high school students from South and Central Arkansas.
The competition not only drew involvement from students, but from schools and local leaders who support this effort. The district’s winning app was created by four Hamburg High School students, called “ARSchools.” The app project helped make the Hamburg School District’s website more mobile-friendly by filtering excess amounts of information to streamline the user experience.
I want to brag on the work being done in Hamburg; a small town in South Arkansas with a population of about 3,000 people. Hamburg High School currently has 40 students taking computer science classes. The interest for these classes was so high that the school had to turn people away. But next year, Hamburg is hoping on expanding its course capacity to 80 seats.
Many schools who competed in the app challenge used the MIT app inventor to create their projects—not Hamburg. Those four students decided to write their own code from scratch with a text-based coding language called C#.
These are some incredible kids, and following this project, three of the four Hamburg competitors have decided to major in computer science. The coding initiative in Arkansas has changed the course of these students’ career paths, exposing them to the world of coding and developing their passion for this field. I want to recognize Hamburg High School’s computer science teacher and head football coach, Cecil Cossey. Thank you for making computer coding education a big success in a small town with great kids.
Seeing the Congressional App Challenge engage students and their communities in Central and South Arkansas is extraordinary. These young people have learned the coding skills to be able to produce something tangible with a purpose. I commend Congressman Westerman for his efforts to spearhead this initiative, and recognize all of our federal delegation who are working to expand coding opportunities for every Arkansas student.
Keep in mind that the key part of this initiative is that it brings together students, ideas, problem-solving and technology. The world of computer coding is exciting, allowing people of any age to test their abilities and use digital tools to create something never been done before. These skills are useful in any career, and can be found in everything we do.
And most importantly, it’s for everyone who is willing to learn. We are changing from being consumers to being creators and innovators. And it’s setting all of us on the road to success.