Debi Pfitzenmaier, founder of San Antonio Youth Code Jam with John Saddington, partner with The Iron Yard, file photo by Laura Lorek

Debi Pfitzenmaier, founder of San Antonio Youth Code Jam with John Saddington, partner with The Iron Yard, file photo by Laura Lorek

Debi Pfitzenmaier launched Youth Code Jam in 2012 to fill a need in San Antonio to teach kids computer programming.

Recently, President Barack Obama recognized Youth Code Jam and other programs around the country aimed at empowering youth by teaching them how to code. President Obama recognized the San Antonio nonprofit organization’s mission to teach 1,000 local students how to code as part of his #CSForAll initiative. The Youth Code Jam program is aimed at students fourth through 12th grade.

Youth Code Jam is an annual day-long event held in September for students and parents to learn coding.

“We have a new reality,” said Pfitzenmaier, founder and CEO of Youth Code Jam. “Computer science can no longer be added-on as an afterthought. There’s reading, writing, ‘rithmatic and running code. But there’s more to it than that. We must connect computer science to a career path in the eyes of the students, then provide meaningful opportunities throughout their school years to keep them engaged.”

The 80/20 Foundation, SA2020, Rackspace, Google Fiber and others support San Antonio Youth Code Jam. The program is expanding this summer to include summer computing camps with scholarships for low-income and underrepresented students and opportunities specifically for teens on the autism spectrum, according to Pfitzenmaier.

Youth Code Jam is also offering a new Conceptual MindWorks Scholarship for Girls to encourage more girls to participate in the summer coding camps, she said.

President Obama said his goal is to give all students nationwide the chance to learn computer science skills in school. President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative provides $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for districts in his upcoming budget. It also includes more than $135 million beginning this year by the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to support and train CD teachers.

“In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill, right along with the three Rs,” President Obama said during a recently weekly address. “Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children’s schools. Yet right now, only about a quarter of K through 12 schools offer computer science. Twenty-two states don’t even allow it to count toward a diploma.”

On May 14th, Youth Code Jam will hold a special low sensory code jam for teens with Asperger Syndrome. It will soon release information on its summer camps, Pfitzenmaier said. The Youth Code Jam camps will focus on different programming languages like Java and Alice. The program is also going to work with drones and other technology tools like Pocket Lab, which is a physics lab in your pocket, Pfitzenmaier said.

“There can never be too much opportunity to learn something new,” Pfitzenmaier said. “We draw them into what truly is a 21st century skill. Every job is going to have some element or it whether it’s a tech company or not.”