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Harriman High School

ORNL Hour of Code volunteers demystify computing for area students

One hour. It’s not long, but it’s enough time to inspire a student.

That’s the goal of more than 40 volunteers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who are making the most of 60 minute timeframes all week long by leading Hour of Code activities in 27 area schools as part of an annual, international effort dedicated to computer science education.

On Dec. 9, Catherine Schuman returned for the second year in a row to lead activities at her alma mater, Harriman High School, just a few miles from ORNL, where today she’s a world-renowned researcher studying machine learning and neuromorphic computing, an emerging field that takes inspiration from neuroscience to design energy efficient, “brain-like” computers.

More simply, “I try to teach computers how to learn,” Schuman told the students.

Scattered throughout computer science teacher Andrew Holmbeck’s classroom, the ninth through twelfth graders enrolled in Holmbeck’s Coding I class and John Daugherty’s STEM class listened as Schuman described her current job and how not so long ago, she was just like them.