Tennessee State opens coding hub for black schools

In this Friday, July 19, 2019 photo, Nathan Goode participates in Tennessee State University’s coding and app development initiative, in Nashville, Tenn. The school aims to be a hub for coding and app development at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. (Aaron Ingram/Apple via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee State University is opening a hub for computer programming and app development that will serve historically black colleges and universities across the country.

To kick off the effort, leaders from 14 schools met at TSU’s new National Center for Smart Technology Innovations in Nashville this week for to develop apps that solve real-life challenges.

“Mind-blowing,” was how Morehouse College’s Monique Earl-Lewis described the experience. The professor of Africana studies said she was doubtful going in that she would be able to learn coding.

But on Friday, she found herself presenting an app for Nashville’s Fisk University designed to get students to respond to important emails. Earl-Lewis said she plans to work on a version of the app for Morehouse to present at a faculty and staff retreat.

Apple is supporting TSU with equipment, scholarships and professional development to help the university launch its HBCU C2 initiative. The C2 stands for coding and creativity.

The project is part of Apple’s Community Education Initiative, which seeks to expand coding and workforce development opportunities to underrepresented communities. The company has other projects in Austin, Texas; Houston; and Boise, Idaho. Each one looks a little different, depending on the needs and desires of the specific community, said Lisa Jackson is Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

Jackson said the company’s Swift programming language is designed to be intuitive and provide an easy entry into the world of coding.

That was the experience for Earl-Lewis, who said, “The most significant personal experience for me is knowing that with just this iPad, I’m an app developer.”

She is excited to share her experience with students and other faculty members. Morehouse will develop a plan for how it can best utilize the resources of TSU and Apple, Earl-Lewis said. That will include sharing knowledge with other Atlanta-area HBCUs.

TSU President Glenda Glover said in a news release that TSU is proud to host the initiative.

“Coding and app development are a growing part of the global workforce, and we want to help make sure people of color, especially our students, are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be competitive, and successful,” she said.

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