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Coding: All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

Teenagers are fairly notorious for making poor decisions. With the power of Facebook, I have many opportunities to look back at the outfits I wore as a teenager and cringe. However, your teenage years can also be the beginning of the passions and interests that guide your career. I became interested in government through participation in Student Congress, Model UN, and working as a volunteer on a local political campaign as a high school student.

Today, the options for high school extracurricular activities are expanding to meet the needs of today’s technology based economy. These clubs have the potential to shape the future of digital innovation. Where would you be today if your high school had a coding club?

Google recognizes that the best way to ignite a passion for software development in students is to recruit teens and make it fun. Starting this November, Google will be hosting a “Code-In,” exclusively for teens aged 13-17. A “code-in” is a contest that challenges participants to solve real software problems by contributing to open source code. As VentureBeat points out, “Contributing to free/open-source software is one of the best ways to learn how to be a better hacker, both technically and ethically.”

According to Google, “Google Code-in is intended to help students who may have wanted to get involved in open source but didn’t know where to start. It is Google’s not so secret hope that the student contestants of today will be long-term contributors to these and other open source projects in the future.”

Google is partnering with open source organizations such as Drupal, Haiku and Apertium to create a list of tasks for students based on the current projects these organizations are working on. During the Code-In, these open source communities also serve as mentors to participants hoping to become a part of the open source world one day.

Students who successfully complete tasks are eligible for an array of prizes. The 20 grand-prize winners will win a trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA where they will be able to tour the facilities, talk to engineers, and explore San Francisco.

The participants will be working on coding the programs that are becoming more integrated into the public sector. As we discuss in GovLoop’s guide Agency of the Future: Open Source, open source is revolutionizing government agencies. Moving to open source platforms allows agencies to tailor programs to operational needs and leverage shared knowledge to improve processes. However, the thought leaders we interviewed for the guide agreed that a major obstacle standing in the way of government agencies moving to open source was a lack of expertise and experience with open source among personnel.

Initiatives like Google’s Code-In are fostering an emerging generation of developers who will be able to use open source to solve problems. Perhaps 10 years from now, the participants in this code-in will be the leading innovators in your agency.

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