Hofstra University has been awarded a grant from OpenLink, the global leader in Transaction Lifecycle Management (TLM) software for the commodity, energy and financial services industries, to support a technology education program taught by Frank G. Zarb School of Business students using tiny, low-cost portable computers to help elementary and middle school students learn basic programming skills.
The Next Generation Computer Programming Academy began more than a year ago at The Progressive School of Long Island, and has evolved into a vibrant partnership that builds the resumes of Hofstra information technology students while building the computer skills of the youngsters they teach.
The grant from OpenLink, with corporate headquarters in Uniondale, Long Island, paid for 30 computer monitors and stipends for the lead student instructors.
“When you go on an interview, you can say I did something. You didn’t just learn it – you taught it to someone else,” said Alex Pelaez, special assistant professor of information technology who founded the program. Students from the Hofstra Information Technology Association (HITA), which Pelaez advises, do the teaching. “Hofstra wins because it’s a great community project. Our students win because they’re getting great experience, and the Progressive School wins.”
In fact, one of those students received a job offer from OpenLink after Rich Grossi, an executive at the company and OpenLink sponsor of the program, observed him teaching at the Progressive School.
“At OpenLink, we are constantly seeking top talent,” said Grossi, who is executive vice president of global operations and support at OpenLink. “We recognize that our many achievements are the result of talented technologists that help drive our innovation. I am very pleased that we were able to fill this role and provide a career path for a graduate from this program.”
Roger Burkhardt, OpenLink’s Chief Technology Officer added: “At OpenLink, our ability to innovate and develop market-leading, award-winning software is driven by our talented team of technologists. We are pleased to work with Hofstra University in support of this educational initiative that empowers the students of Long Island with technology skills that will help them succeed in the future.”
The success of the program at The Progressive School led to several student-teachers conducting similar classes for Hofstra Continuing Education’s Saturday Classes for Young People.
The weekly academy at The Progressive School teaches kids Python, a simple general purpose programming language, using an innovative, single board computer called Raspberry Pi that is the size of a credit card and costs about $40. Developed in Great Britain, Raspberry Pi can be plugged into a TV, computer monitor, keyboard and mouse, and performs many of the functions of a laptop or desktop computer. As a result, students can easily take their work back and forth from school to home.
Compared to other types of classroom technology, Raspberry Pi is simple, sturdy and cost-effective, Pelaez said. “A lot of times, people focus on the jazzy equipment when they talk about bringing technology into the classroom,” he said. “We’re doing basic programming and problem-solving. You don’t always need a backhoe to dig a hole. Sometimes you just need a shovel.”