IDRA and Texas A&M University-San Antonio Launch “VisionCoders” with $3.89 million federal grant.
San Antonio middle school students who are in at-risk situations will become the next generation of software coders through an innovative project called VisionCoders, launched by IDRA and Texas A&M University-San Antonio. The project was kick-started by a $3.89 million, five-year Education, Innovation and Research grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“We’re excited to partner with A&M San Antonio and San Antonio-area districts to prepare middle schoolers for careers that haven’t even been invented yet,” said IDRA President and CEO Celina Moreno. “These students ‘VisionCoders’ will become leaders on campus and in our future workforce.”
IDRA and A&M-San Antonio will partner on the design and implementation of an eighth-grade computer science course in which the VisionCoders will create educational games for Pre-K to first grade students. The project will impact over 1,400 students in 12 schools in the seven Bexar County school districts that comprise the ASPIRE network. A&M-San Antonio founded that network in 2019 to accelerate locally-driven innovation and improve academic achievement for high-need students.
“VisionCoders was created with a similar purpose of that of Texas A&M University-San Antonio; and that is to be at the forefront of a strategy to propel regional innovation while creating a pathway for South San Antonio and South Bexar County students to prepare for the future of science, technology, engineering and math careers,” said Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of A&M-San Antonio. “Skills such as critical thinking, math and computing will enable them to be successful in educational and employment aspirations in this highly competitive field.”
Key to the course are well-prepared and knowledgeable teachers, which is why VisionCoders integrates focused teacher training with a master’s level course through A&M-San Antonio’s College of Education and Human Development.
Participating school districts include East Central, Edgewood, Harlandale, Somerset, South San Antonio, South Side, and Southwest ISDs. In the geographic area encompassing those districts, fewer than 1 percent of adults work in computer-related fields, compared to the national average of 7 percent.
Today’s fastest-growing careers are tech-driven, from health care to telecommunications to aerospace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 67 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing and projects that computer science research jobs alone will increase 19 percent by 2026.