By Erika Webb
Computer apps prevailed over pre-lunch appetites and zero eyelids drooped to the lull of a monotonous voice explaining microorganisms via film projector on Dec. 12 at Deltona Middle School.
This is, after all, 2013.
All eyes were riveted on the Microsoft products displayed at the front of the classroom and at least one student was halfway out of his chair. Supercharged enthusiasm compelled him to make a mad dash. No doubt a morning speech from Computer Business Technology Teacher Elizabeth Diamond kept his body closer to his chair.
But nothing could contain his curiosity and keen interest; and that was the point.
State Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, and Microsoft representatives Simeon Hill and Julian Radacz co-hosted an "Hour of Code" event aimed at introducing students to computer science and its career potential.
Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code are promoted by Code.org a non-profit organization aimed at driving demand for computer science education. Microsoft is a founding partner of Code.org and provides many of the innovative learning tools used in Hour of Code lessons.
"I am excited to partner with Code.org and Microsoft to inspire Volusia students to pursue careers in computer science," Rep. Santiago said in a news release. "In 20 years, I want to see our students founding and growing tech companies right here in Volusia County."
The Hour of Code is an opportunity for every student to try computer science for one hour, according to code.org.
"During Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9-15), we're making history and recruiting 10 million to join in and do the Hour of Code," the site stated.
Code.org encourages teachers to utilize tutorials to introduce students to coding and suggests ways to get students to relate to its importance in today's world.
Teachers are encouraged to:
Explain it in a simple way that includes examples of applications both boys and girls will care about (saving lives, helping people, connecting people, etc.).
Tell students to think about things in their everyday lives that use computer science: a cell phone, a microwave, a computer and traffic light -- all things that require a computer scientist to help build.
Describe computer science as the art of blending human ideas and digital tools to increase our power, the website suggested, adding, "Computer scientists work in so many different areas: writing apps for phones, curing diseases, creating animated movies, working on social media, building robots that explore other planets and so much more."
That's the news the state representative, with a vision for Volusia students' future accomplishments, is passionate about spreading.
"We need to teach our students in subject matters that are more relevant to a 21st Century workforce," Rep. Santiago said in the release. "The job numbers and salaries for people with coding skills are astonishing."
Before the Microsoft presentation, Ms. Diamond instructed students to go to code.org where they began using Java Script to make pictures. They'd been learning to make shapes and creating games from code -- numbers and letters -- all week.
Summer Sullivan, a seventh grader from Deltona, focused on her computer screen. A big smile on her face told her story as she utilized coding to make a picture.
"I'm trying to make like a smile. You have to fill the colors and after that you can actually make the shape," Summer explained.
She's already researched jobs that require the skills she's learning now.
"It's a good job," she said of computer programming. "I looked on the Internet and (the pay) is a high number, like $56 an hour."
Summer, who makes "all As and Bs," thoroughly enjoys Ms. Diamond's class.
"It's been really fun," she said.
Rep. Santiago was inspired when he visited Microsoft Corp. in Seattle. He wants to give Volusia students the world.
"These are jobs that start, on average, $80,000," Rep. Santiago told Hometown News. "There are over 100,000 openings in this sector in the U.S., the computer science sector."
Microsoft Retail Stores store manager Mr. Hill and Microsoft Service Advisor Mr. Radacz brought the latest technology and job enthusiasm to demonstrate to the middle school audience that work can be fun.
"We're personalizing technology to meet everybody's needs," Mr. Hill explained to the class.
From the gamer to the person who wants to utilize or create apps to the person who wants to journal, he said, technology provides individual customization.
"There are so many facets," Mr. Hill said. "Like a diamond ... so many facets. You guys are all facets within technology. You gotta learn it first, which will make you more excited about it and give you that wow factor."
He introduced Mr. Radacz as the "number one guy when it comes to coding."
The Microsoft technician is responsible for corporate hardware repair and customer interaction.
"His second focus is developing apps on the Windows platform," Mr. Hill said.
So, in Mr. Radacz's free time he writes phone apps for Windows 8.
"App developers are really important," Mr. Radacz said. "People like me are the people who do that. There are more than 75,000 apps in the Windows store and (the number is) growing every day."
He hasn't sold any yet but has all seven of his apps in the Windows store, approved and ready for download.
Six hours was the longest time he spent creating an app, he said.
Cumulatively those he's developed have been downloaded a total of 35,000 times, he said.
Mr. Radacz, 22, told the students that when he was their age he didn't have a clue what he wanted to do for a living.
"I had no idea that I would have been here," he said. "Absolutely, I love my job."
Deltona Middle School Principal Lesley Sileo's positive attitude and exuberant message to students was catching.
Building on the word "intuitive" the principal explained how today's technology anticipates what the user is trying to accomplish.
She illustrated by talking about the password application.
"It has steps going on that it's kind of thought of as I'm getting into it," Ms. Sileo said. "It's thought of everything like it knows me."
But it's not magic. A human being made it possible for an inanimate object to intuit.
She told the students how important it will be for them to like what they do for a living.
"Major corporations -- Microsoft, Apple, Google -- are going overseas to try to find talent," Rep. Santiago said. "Why aren't we doing a better job here in the U.S. preparing our kids for the jobs of tomorrow? I'm not stopping."
Rep. Santiago told the class he heard the person who created the hit game Candy Crush Saga earns more than $100,000 a day from downloads.
"Candy Crush has been played 151 billion times since it launched as an app on mobile devices exactly one year ago. And it's the first game to ever be No. 1 on iOS, Android and Facebook at the same time," according to Time Business and Money. "Candy Crush's creator, King, a Stockholm-based company, says 1 in every 23 Facebook users plays it. And while Candy Crush is free, the in-game purchases that some players choose to make add up. Think Gaming, which releases gaming analytics, estimates that it takes in $875,382 per day."
"By comparison, another insanely popular mobile game, Angry Birds, takes in an estimated $6,381 daily," Time.com noted.
Coding, decision structure and variables all were used in its development, Mr. Hill explained.
"Candy Crush, my parents are addicted to it," said Noah Rowand, the eighth grader who was still itching to get his hands on the Surface 2, Surface 2 Pro, Xbox One and the accessories displayed at the front of the room.
Mr. Hill said Microsoft listens to customers and brings them what they ask for. Students were asked to name their favorite thing about technology.
Social media and ease of connecting with the world were among the answers given.
"The thing I love about technology is new generation graphics ... unbelievable," Carlos Alearran said.