By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Could the next Mark Zuckerberg be sitting in a New York City public school right now?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is aiming to find out if there's someone out there with the potential to invent Facebook or another innovation that can tak over the world.
Having a computer in every classroom isn’t enough, according to the mayor, who said he wants kids to learn what software programs to install in those computers.
Students in 20 middle and high schools across the city, including four in Brooklyn, will get the chance to learn how to design computer software, thanks to an innovative new program set to begin in September.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott came to Telecommunications High School in Bay Ridge on Feb. 25 to announce the 20 schools that have been selected for the new Software Engineering Pilot program.
The program, which will begin with 1,000 students, is expected to grow to 35,000 students by the year 2016, according to the mayor, who said its part of the city’s mission to adequately prepare youngsters for employment an increasingly technological world.
The program will provide students with “new options not only in finding a job, but in creating technology,” Bloomberg said during the press conference which took place in the school library.
“This groundbreaking program will ensure that more students receive computer science and software engineering instruction so that they can compete for the tech jobs that are increasingly becoming a part of our city’s economy. We’re creating the home-grown workforce our city needs and teaching our students skills that will open up new doors for them and their future,” Bloomberg said.
The program is also “an essential part of our effort to expand New York’s role as a technology hub,” the mayor said.
The Brooklyn schools that will take part in the program are: Telecommunications High School, Brooklyn Technical High School, Ditmas Intermediate School, Intermediate School 30, and Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented.
The schools will receive comprehensive computer science and software engineering curriculum, Walcott said.
“We’re providing options for students and choices for parents,” the chancellor said.
“The Software Engineering Pilot will provide students with the foundational skills they need to compete for high-paying, career track jobs in a variety of professional fields,” Walcott said.
Robert Steele, deputy mayor for economic development, said the program will help “insure that New York’s schoolchildren are prepared for the jobs of the future.”
Mike Nolet, Cofounder and Chief Technology officer of AppNexus, who attended the press conference, said he was very excited about the new program. “Our number one challenge has been hiring tech talent,’ he said, adding that he hoped to be hiring graduates of the program within the next few years.
But Nolet also said he believed the software engineering program can help students even if they’re not planning to become software designers. “Tech skills are going to become a required skill” to land any job, he predicted.
The program will be open to students in grades 6 through 12. In the first year, the core topics to be taught include computer programming, embedded electronics, web design and programming, e-textiles, robotics and mobile computing. The program will also offer elective classes, including digital fabrication, 3-D printing and animation.
“It’s just one more way for us to help our students grow and learn,” Telecommunications Principal Phillip Weinberg said.
The Software Engineering Pilot will also provide teacher training for the instructors leading the classes. Schools will use rigorous academic curriculum and have access to technology resources to support program instruction, the mayor said.
In the technology sector, employment in New York grew by nearly 30 percent between 2005 and 2010, with total employment now at nearly 120,000, according to the mayor.