Programming – To Infinity and Beyond

Once you learn programming you can go anywhere and do anything.  In our technology infiltrated world, programming and data science opportunities are available in nearly any field of your choosing.

The University of Illinois recently launched a new degree that melds computer science and crop science.  One area students analyze is how to take the incredible amount of data on the farm to create better seeds.  It’s an application of modern technology to the traditional field of agriculture.  In fact, the University of Illinois offers several degrees that meld computer science with another discipline; linguistics, advertising, economics, chemistry, music and more.

It’s an interesting idea.  It’s an idea that can help change the face of computer science. 

If we can apply this idea to elementary, middle and high school students we can show them the beauty and applications of programming.  Then I believe more women and minorities can begin to picture themselves as programmers.  They can see their role, their place, in this growing field.  

At the college level, a computer science degree becomes less intimidating to those who have little to no experience programming.  If women and minorities could still take courses in their chosen field, while learning computer science skills, these individuals can bring diversity to a white male dominated field.  They would not only change the face of programming but also bring a new perspective.  They could innovate the world, in their own way.

As a mom I’m always looking for opportunities to expose my kids to new experiences and expand their world of possibilities.  I want to share with them what I program, but also show them examples of what others do with programming.  

I write GIS (mapping) software for utility (electric, oil and gas, water, and fiber) to track and manage their assets (support poles, conductors, pipelines, etc.).  GIS provides a way to manage and analyze data spatially.  It’s an incredibly powerful tool (hello gerrymandering).  Researchers changed the lives of coffee growers in Rwanda by utilizing GIS to improve the quality, and therefore the profitability, of their coffee beans.  You can do humanitarian work and change the world through programming.

Programming can be used in art and the music.  You can create beautiful art using algorithms and fractals.  The music industry analyzes existing songs and composes new songs using programming.

You can take your programming to space.  The Mars Rovers are programmed to constantly monitor their status and key functions, to navigate, and to communicate with Earth.

Another example is in medicine where doctors write code to solve every day problems such as scheduling and referrals.  They also write phone apps to help with clinical studies and research.  Oncora Medical analyzes historical cancer treatment data to provide personalized treatment options to new patients based on a variety of patient and treatment data points. 

Whatever your passion, or your children’s passion, learning to program can only enhance your abilities and impact in the world around you.  There are so many free courses online, fun tools such as EarSketch, and games such as RobotTurtles and Codeapillar to teach programming.

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