Lolo Students Get a Taste of Tech
Over thirty students from Lolo Middle School saw coding in action at local Missoula tech companies, thanks to ChickTech: Missoula and the Gifted and Talented Program at Lolo Schools. The 6th, 7th and 8th graders, many of whom have worked with computer applications in their school’s technology classes, toured the offices of LumenAd and Submittable in the Florence Building in downtown Missoula. They also had the opportunity to hear from the companies’ founders and to ask questions about what it is like to work at a technology company.
The students started their tour with a visit to the digital advertising company LumenAd where they met with founder Ryan Hansen. Mr. Hansen asked students about their experiences with digital advertising. He also explained how LumenAd’s technology helps ads appear in front of the people who will be most interested. The students then visited the offices of Submittable, a software company focused on submission management. In talking with the students, Michael FitzGerald, co-founder and CEO at Submittable, encouraged students to learn the ways of thinking involved in computer programming. The future of programming will not be in the specific coding languages in use today, Mr. FitzGerald said. Employees will first and foremost need to be able to “think clearly.” He also told the students that while it is great to have interests in coding, the most important thing is that they stay in school and pursue subjects for which they have a passion. During the visit students also met with other employees at the tech companies, including June Noel, Front-end Developer at LumenAd and Chapter Director for ChickTech: Missoula, and Bracha Tenenbaum, Product Manager at Submittable and ChickTech: Missoula Board Member.
While some of the students may not have heard of LumenAd or Submittable before their visit, they were not strangers to technology. When asked why they were interested in tech, several students responded that in addition to playing games and using applications they wanted to be able to “make technology,” “build computers,” “build video games,” and “hack.” Students also mentioned that in their technology classes at school they were learning to use programming and design software such as Kodu, SketchUp, and MIT’s Scratch.
According to Jennifer Tabler, Lolo Schools’ Gifted and Talented Coordinator, the school received a grant from an anonymous donor to provide enrichment opportunities for students with interests in fine arts or computer applications. Hearing about ChickTech’s efforts to excite students, especially girls, about technology, Ms. Tabler reached out to June Noel. Together with Kathryn Grady, Chicktech: Missoula’s Development Manager, they planned the tour of tech companies as a way to give students exposure to the local tech industry and to real-world programming. Ms. Tabler hopes that this visit will inspire a group to plan an Hour of Code program for all Lolo School students next year.