Code-Writers Of TN: Developing A Smarter Tomorrow

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by Knox County Schools, Great Schools Partnership, and United Way of Greater Knoxville


Hearing high school “code writers” talk shop is an experience with a virtual language, and now, using terms like JQuery, JSon, SSH, GitHub, SQL and others, these digital natives have the opportunity to solve real-world problems that can affect energy use, save lives, impact communities, and connect family members.

On November 20, 7 p.m., at the Knoxville Convention Center, seven teams from the Knox County Schools, as well as those from other area high schools, presented web-based solutions to real-world problems in the first-ever code- writing competition for high school students in the state of Tennessee, CODEtn. CODEtn was organized by Great Schools Partnership and endorsed by United Way of Greater Knoxville to challenge teams to produce dynamic web applications to alleviate or solve community problems. In all, more than 100 students from the Knox County Schools have participated in CODEtn, representing Bearden High School, Career Magnet Academy at Pellissippi State, Carter High School, Farragut High School, Hardin Valley Academy, L&N STEM Academy and West High School.

“We believe that if high school students can build robots, they can also build software apps,” said Buzz Thomas, President of Great Schools Partnership. “Twenty-seven area teams are on a quest to prove us right!” Since September, the students have been working on their tightly-guarded solutions, which were judged in preliminary online sessions earlier this month. The students and their faculty sponsors share that the students are solving problems to help mankind, connect families in times of need, reach out to the community in a local and global way, address an energy need for school districts and more.

…students are solving problems to help mankind, connect families in times of need, reach out to the community in a local and global way, address an energy need for school districts and more.

Teams from Farragut High School and Bearden High School were named as the two finalists, with Bearden taking home top honors. Their project, a scholarship search engine called “Eruditio”, is available here.

“My students like to solve problems and test themselves,” said Vivian West, Business Technology Instructor at Hardin Valley Academy. “In this challenge, they get to practice all aspects of the process design model, which in class is only a theory but now becomes a reality.”

CODEtn not only allows the students to test their knowledge of using technology to solve problems, but it also brings into sharp focus the opportunity to apply theory learned in a classroom to practical use in the real world. Through CODEtn, students are acquiring deeper knowledge of computer science and application, programming and creating live web sites, something they generally do not get to do in class, but their lessons learned extend beyond those related to computers. These students, many of whom are self-taught coders, also are learning problem solving, creative thinking, communication skills, scheduling and teamwork. Further, they are working shoulder to shoulder in collaboration with industry mentors from more than 10 regional companies, including Cisco, Informatica, MasterCraft, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PetSafe, Pronova Solutions, Right Click LLC, Scripps Networks, Zalk IT and others.

“I’m excited when kids want to learn programming,” said Mary Lin, Distinguished Professional Mathematics and Computer Applications Teacher at Farragut High School. “This skill will open so many doors and opportunities to them no matter what career they seek.”

At the November 20 finale, finalists presented and explained their web-based solutions, and the top two teams were announced. The first-place prize is a $5,000 classroom grant, and second place is a $1,000 grant. Additionally, winning students receive $500 or $250 gift cards from Amazon or The Apple Store.

For more information, visit or contact Buzz Thomas, President of Great Schools Partnership.

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