San Jacinto Unified School District showcases computer science students at summit

Mountain Heights Academy students Victor Lomeli, Jovanny Herrera, Isaac Sabia, Hailey Burke and Sydney Fisher participate in the CSforAll Summit Student Showcase, a computer science summit for schools in the Inland Empire, Nov. 2. Courtesy photo

SAN JACINTO – Educators, business people and government officials discussed the need for teaching computer science to students in kindergarten through 12th grade at the second annual Inland CSforALL Summit Nov. 2, in Riverside.

Mountain Heights Academy, San Jacinto Unified School District’s blended learning magnet program for grades 6-12, was prominent at the summit with senior Hailey Burke serving on the discussion panel in front of more than 400 attendees.

“I am super proud of Hailey Burke and her participation on the panel with two other teachers,” Denise Leonard, teacher on special assignment at SJUSD’s Mountain View High and Mountain Heights Academy, said. “She is a role model for all students spreading the word about the value of computer science. Hailey is combining her love of writing and speaking with computer coding and hopes to combine the two next year in college.”


In addition to Burke, fellow Mountain Heights Academy students Isaac Sabia, Sydney Fisher, Victor Lomeli and Jovanny Herrera also attended and demonstrated their hands-on computer science projects as part of the event’s student showcase.

“I am tremendously proud of all of these students,” Heidi Baynes, teacher on special assignment for instructional technology at SJUSD, said. “They used Raspberry Pi microcomputers to create a variety of different projects for the students showcase portion of the summit.”

The students used Python as the programming language to create digital light shows, humidity monitors, musical compositions and a system to detect the moisture of soil to indicated when plants need to be watered, and these four project displays were very popular with the variety of students attending the event.

San Jacinto Unified School District is a charter member of the Inland Code Consortium, currently 17 school districts partner throughout Southern California to promote computer science education for all students, known as coding. Representatives from each member district attended the summit, as well as representatives from companies such as Google and Girls Who Code. Riverside Unified School District, another charter member of the Inland Code Consortium, hosted the summit held at the Bourns Technology Center, which is home to several emerging high-tech companies in Riverside.

The summit’s keynote speaker, Hadi Partovi, is a technology entrepreneur, investor and the CEO of the education nonprofit Code.org. Code.org launched the global Hour of Code movement that has reached over 100 million students since its inception in 2013. The Hour of Code began as a one-hour introduction to computer science to show that anyone can learn the basics.

“People often ask me, ‘Why computer science?’ and I reply, ‘Because it is fun,’” Partovi said to an applauding Summit audience. “We need our kids to love school and be creative. It is a moral imperative to prepare our students for the future, and we must include computer science and coding because our world has changed.”

Dr. Beth Simon, an associate teaching professor at University of California San Diego and another summit speaker, described her work in the development of high school computer curriculum and the training and community needs of K-12 teachers wanting to bring computing education opportunities to their students. Currently at SJUSD, several computer science classes are offered at the middle and high school levels with plans to expand into the lower grades as early as next year.

David Sheiner, SJUSD’s coordinator of education technology, is preparing for a districtwide Hour of Code event to celebrate the upcoming Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 4-10.

“It is important we introduce all our students to computer science because computing occupations are the number one source of all new wages in the U.S. and one of the most in-demand and highest paying occupations,” Sheiner said.

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