The Computer Science Department at NC State is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Established in 1967, NC State has one of the oldest computer science departments in the nation. This half century of research and experience has brought us to an age where coding has never been more relevant.
“Coding is a beautiful thing,” said Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) in an interview with Complex a few years ago.
He goes on to say that he doesn’t want kids to aspire to be rappers or ballers, not even doctors or lawyers: “I want them to be coders.”
In case you aren’t familiar with Glover’s work, he was a writer on “30 Rock,” starred in the show “Community,” was nominated for two Grammys under his rap name Childish Gambino, and won two Golden Globes for his show “Atlanta.”
So why would a wildly successful actor/writer/musician wish that young kids don’t follow in his footsteps but pursue coding instead?
According to Code.org, “Computing jobs are the #1 source of new wages in the United States.” As a matter of fact, there are 500,000 openings for computing jobs, and these jobs are predicted to grow at twice the rate as other jobs.
So Glover understands the economic implications of a good computer science education. Because behind every car, gaming system and new filter on Snapchat, there was a programmer who made it happen. Considering the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, software engineers are in higher demand, while more jobs are being replaced by machines.
Thus, every high school and college student should learn how to code. Every single industry, from medicine to agriculture to entertainment, needs programmers because all those industries depend on computer software.
Since computers are ubiquitous, computer science education should be too. Even if you don’t end up coding as a career, the skills fostered by a computer science education are universal.
For example, the way I approach writing a column is the same way I approach writing code. I start on a high level: I usually write out the themes for the column as subheadings first, just like the way I make my classes for my program at the beginning too.
Whether writing a program or a paper, every word, character and symbol matters; a missing semicolon can wreck your whole code, and a misplaced semicolon can change the vibe of the entire column. So learning how to code teaches you essential problem-solving skills that are applicable to everything.
If you’re interested, you should at least take one coding class while you’re at NC State — it’s one of the best schools in the country in this regard: first in the nation in female faculty members, and among the top in the nation in awarding bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees for computer science.
Being a computer science student at NC State definitely has its perks too. Often on the way to class in EB II, I see software companies in the atrium who want to talk to computer science students (usually with donuts or sandwiches of some sort).
I also went to the Computer Science Career Fair at Hunt Library before the Engineering Career Fair this past year. Since there weren’t nearly as many students compared to the big engineering fair, I didn’t have to wait long to talk to a SAS representative, and I think that conversation really helped me get my SAS internship this summer.
There are plenty of online resources to learn how to code too. I like Code.org; they make it very easy for beginners to get started, using different themes like Minecraft and Frozen to make their tutorials more fun.
We live in a world where someone could learn how to code by themselves, make an app in their basement, and have it become the new hottest thing. Websites like Code.org and Khan Academy can help you learn how to do this, even without getting a degree in computer science.
I hope that as more people learn to code, we can deconstruct some of the stigma surrounding computer science too. People might have this image of a guy locked in his nerd lair with Doritos and Mountain Dew tapping away at his keyboard. I’ve told people that I’m a computer science major, and their reaction was almost one of vehement disgust.
But when I’m able to make “Tetris” come alive, or when I animate scenes from the movie “Up” with just geometric shapes, or when my ecosystem simulator finally works, I feel what Donald Glover describes about the beauty of coding: “The excitement of making something, that’s the spark of God.”