From coal mining to data mining?

Kentucky photo

This past week MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) kicked off a new study aimed at training former coal miners and others in rural Kentucky to learn how to code.

The initiative is being developed in conjunction with MIT App Inventor, a platform aimed at teaching introductory programming and building skills in web app development.

“The goal is to help unemployed and underemployed workers in rural Kentucky learn computational thinking, which is a vital skill for today’s digital economy,” says MIT professor Hal Abelson, co-creator of App Inventor. “Building up these capabilities could help show these workers that they have the aptitude for a wide range of opportunities, including roles as programmers, website builders, and app developers.”

The kick-off featured Abelson, CSAIL director Daniela Rus and a team of educators from Kentucky who will go back to their home state this fall to teach introductory programming classes using App Inventor. Students in the classes will create usable web apps that incorporate some of their existing knowledge from previous professions, including mining and emergency response.

CSAIL will use the results of this study to propose new interventions for computational thinking toward a more digitally-abled workforce.