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January 22, 2014 | Tom Ballard

STEMspark, TN Code Academy planning two classes in March

STEMspark-teknoBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

STEMspark, the regional consortium covering 13 East Tennessee counties, and the TN Code Academy, an initiative of The Biz Foundry in Cookeville, are joining forces to hold two week-long coding classes in the STEMspark service area during spring break.

“We will hold one in Knoxville and the other in LaFollette,” said Marilyn Roddy, Project Manager for the 13-county regional hub that links education, business, scientific, research institutions, and community partners in ways that promote and support high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

“Today, coding undergirds everything we do,” Roddy observed in explaining how important these classes are to the region’s future.

The decision to hold two sessions reflects one of STEMspark’s core priorities – serving both urban and rural communities – as well as the reality that school system spring breaks vary across the 13 counties.

“We can accommodate 25 students in each of the classes,” Roddy said. The target population is 12 to 18 year old students.

“I am seeking sponsors to help defray costs through scholarships and sponsorship of meals,” she explained. Tuition is $300 per student, and lunch sponsorship for one week is $1,000. For more information on sponsorships, contact Roddy at

The week-long session starting March 17 will be held in Greve Hall on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The LaFollette session begins the next week (March 24) and will be held on the Campbell County campus of Roane State Community College (RSCC).

“It has great interstate access,” Roddy said of the RSCC location at 201 Independence Lane, LaFollette.

Roddy is also seeking guest speakers for the sessions and volunteers, particularly college students, to “serve as an extra pair of hands.”

“STEMspark is at the intersection of the workforce pipeline and education,” Roddy said. “Coding skills are critical to position Tennessee to compete in the global economy.”

The STEMspark region includes Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier and Union Counties.

The collaboration between STEMspark and the TN Code Academy provides two opportunities in the greater Knoxville area, but the latter is also working with organizations in other parts of East Tennessee to hold week-long coding classes. These include March 3-7 in Cookeville, and April 14-18 in both Chattanooga and Crossville.

For more information and to register, click here.

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