Verizon grant to expand UNT's Code Camp program

Code Camp
Above, from left, Leslie Hernandez, director of business sales for Verizon Wireless in Central Texas; Blake Pumphrey, associate director of business sales for Verizon Wireless; Robyn Parks, associate director of marketing for Verizon Wireless in Central Texas; Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD superintendent; Michelle Miller, Verizon Wireless region president for Central Texas; Nancy Hong, executive director of the UNT Innovation Greenhouse; Neal Smatresk, UNT president; Jerry Thomas, dean of UNT's College of Education; David Russell, Verizon Wireless external affairs.

UNT's Code Camp teaches computer coding to Denton ISD elementary and middle school students

The University of North Texas Code Camp program, which began in 2014, will expand thanks to a $20,000 gift from Verizon. Code Camp advances science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education by teaching computer coding to Denton Independent School District elementary and middle school students.

"We are excited to partner with UNT to engage our youth in STEM," said Michelle Miller, regional president for Verizon Wireless. "There are currently 3 million STEM jobs in the U.S. that are unfilled. By raising both the interest and proficiency of students in STEM at younger ages we will be helping to prepare the workforce of the future."

Code Camp is implemented by UNT's Innovation Greenhouse. Students in UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science and College of Education travel to Denton ISD schools and teach children about computer coding by playing and customizing the popular video game Minecraft.

"What we are doing is hiding vegetables in a cupcake," said Innovation Greenhouse Executive Director Nancy Hong. "The students love Minecraft, and computer coding is such an important skill to learn before going to college or entering the job market. By learning coding early, students are getting a head start and will have an advantage in the future."

Verizon's gift will help expand the program across Denton ISD schools, bringing access to STEM education to even more students. The program also provides valuable hands-on digital and STEM teaching experience for future teachers in UNT's College of Education.

"Our ultimate goal as a district is to prepare our students for the future, and there's no better way to accomplish that than by incorporating coding skills into games and activities – like Minecraft – that our students enjoy already," said Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson. "We see this partnership with UNT as a win-win for both of us because our students will only continue to improve their proficiency and knowledge of technology by working together."

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By Leslie Minton, UNT University Relations, Communications & Marketing
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