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Argonne National Laboratory

Editor's note: this blog was originally posted on Argonne National Laboratory's website.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory celebrated this year’s National Computer Science Education Week (December 7-11, 2020) by hosting multiple virtual engagement events leading up to National Week of Coding and ending with researchers virtually visiting classrooms for National Hour of Code Week. Through these events, world-class scientists at Argonne and DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, as well as University of Chicago students, shared their amazing science with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students.

“Our virtual events this year mark a strengthening connection with CPS, demonstrating Argonne’s interest in increasing science knowledge among youth across diverse Chicago communities,” said Robyn Wheeler Grange, Argonne’s Head of State, Local and Regional Public Affairs and Outreach. ​“By working with schools, we foster interest in STEM, while giving our world-renowned scientists the chance to share their knowledge and experiences with diverse groups of students.”

To help set the stage for National Computer Science Week and Hour of Code in December, Argonne collaborated with CPS and the Office of Computer Science (OCS) for a number of virtual events in October and November, connecting youth with a world-changing STEM community.

“The Office of Computer Science is thrilled to develop a partnership with Argonne Education to bring out-of-school-time opportunities to our students that bridge their interests in computer science and other content areas,” said OCS Project Coordinator Abril Vela. ​“This unique partnership provides students with an opportunity to better understand how computational thinking is applied across STEM domains and can be valuable in any career path. The OCS is proud to partner with a leading research lab to provide students with access to some of the country’s top scientists, engineers, and computing power, in order to help further their understanding of the world around them.”

In early fall, Argonne hosted a two-part, virtual seminar series for high school students, covering various computer science topics, from the field of computational biology to potential careers in cybersecurity research. ​“These events are focused on creating a multi-part pathway for students to expand their computing knowledge and interest in potential careers in computer science fields,” explained Argonne Education Outreach Lead Jessica Burgess.

During the first virtual seminar in October, postdoctoral appointee Fatima Foflonker discussed ongoing research into algae, which has numerous uses ranging from food to fuel. Through computational biology, she and fellow scientists track the gene patterns of algae over time and identify genomes with properties that could prove beneficial in biofuels and other industries.

The high school students were amazed at how Foflonker and the other panelists used computational skills in their research — and how this research impacts the world. One student wrote, ​“Thank you for showing what type of work you do, Fatima; it motivates me to better understand my science classes. I often wonder if the things I learn are used in real life.”

Every December, National Computer Science Education Week honors the significant contributions that computer scientists make in the country and world, affecting everything from our phones to our cars to our national security. Furthermore, the week is all about educating the next generation of STEM leaders on how they can apply their science skills to computing fields.

Argonne has traditionally celebrated National Computer Science Education Week by participating in Hour of Code — a worldwide movement where computer scientists share their experiences and journeys and inspire students to pursue computer science careers. This year, Argonne converted its K-12 Hour of Code activities into a virtual format.

“National Computer Science Week and the Hour of Code help students discover new things about computing, and how these skills make a difference in our world,” said Argonne Educational Programs and Outreach Manager Meridith Bruozas. ​“These events bring together the whole STEM community — from our brilliant researchers, to others at our sister science and educational institutions like Fermilab and the University of Chicago, to students in Chicago Public Schools, all for the purpose of shaping the computer science field of tomorrow.”

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.