Computer science opportunities for young people explored in PBS series

Roadtrip Nation, Microsoft Philanthropies, YouthSpark, computer science education
Robin Maxkii, from left, Natalie Melo, Adam Wilson, Ian Bernstein and Zoed Mora.

Roadtrip Nation is an organization on a mission to help young people answer the question “What is my road in life?” Through their documentary television series that airs on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), beginning Sept. 1, Roadtrip Nation follows young adults as they travel across the nation in a big, green RV, interviewing people who have built careers around a unique combination of skills and interests. Microsoft, through its YouthSpark initiative, has partnered with Roadtrip Nation on a new season for PBS called “Code Trip,” which highlights both the incredible possibilities for young people in the technology industry, as well as the challenges faced by people from gender, racial and ethnic backgrounds that have historically been underrepresented in the technology industry.

The technology industry generally recognizes that the majority of people who are creating today’s technology aren’t representative of the populations they are creating it for. For example, in the average U.S.-based technology company, women only make up about 25 percent of the employee base while they make up half of the world’s population. The numbers of Hispanic, African-American, and Native American workers in the technology industry reflect a similar pattern, under-representative of the population as a whole. As a company whose mission is to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more,” Microsoft recognizes that empowerment begins with inclusion. Roadtrip Nation is one way we’re partnering to foster a more inclusive technology industry by showing the diversity of career paths and people in computer science.

The “Code Trip’s” three “Road Trippers” – Natalie, Zoed and Robin – featured in the new season are an engaging group, each at various stages of their journey in computer science education and are representative of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Their trip across the U.S. starts in Southern California and ends in Boston, Massachusetts. Along the way they talk to men and women from across the technology industry about their varied pathways into the technology industry as well as their specific areas of work in their technology careers in areas like volcanology, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, robotics and security.

Perhaps most important, the individuals that Natalie, Zoed and Robin meet and learn from throughout their journey are people with backgrounds similar to theirs. This critical connection reinforces the belief that they too can succeed and thrive in computer science.

The opportunity to inspire and encourage young people, especially young people with backgrounds underrepresented in the technology industry is why Microsoft Philanthropies is such an enthusiastic sponsor of this season of “Roadtrip Nation.” As data suggests, there are a multitude of factors that inhibit a more representative technology industry employee base – from economic barriers, cultural and stereotypical biases, a lack of educational resources in our secondary schools, and too few role models who “look like” the broader population.

The “Code Trip” series highlights these issues and shares critical insight from people across the technology industry on how they have succeeded and thrived, and provides encouragement to keep going. Additionally, Roadtrip Nation provides a variety of resources for young people, teachers and guidance counselors to encourage the dialog to continue.

Microsoft, alongside many others in the industry, is working to bring the benefits of computer science education to all young people.  Through Microsoft YouthSpark,  we are investing in nonprofit organizations around the world to bring the benefits of computer science education to all youth, with a special focus on those youth we know are least likely to have access. We partner with parents, educators, nonprofit organizations and policy makers globally to create broader access to computer science education through programs like TEALS, which pairs technology industry professionals with classroom teachers to team teach computer science education in high schools across the U.S.

As our nonprofit partners around the world have shown us, technology empowers people, whether it is helping a young entrepreneur in Peru or providing a career that lifts entire families out of poverty. Technology enables incredible opportunities that should be available to everyone.

Help bring the benefits of computer science education to all young people by encouraging others to watch this season of “Code Trip,” leveraging the computer science education resources of our partners around the globe or if you’re in the U.S., by requesting computer science education in your school through TEALS.

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