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Citywide celebration of computer science and technology in Chicago showcases the many youth-oriented opportunities available in tech

The Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, is taking part in global Computer Science Education Week by co-hosting HIGH-TECH CHI, a day-long event focused on introducing students in grades K-14 to innovative technologies and introducing new pathways into dynamic tech studies and careers.

The sold-out event will take place this Saturday at Google’s Fulton Market office and is also co-hosted by the City of Chicago Department of Family & Support Services and CS for Success, a service that prepares students to be leaders in a technologically advanced society.

Computing is the top source of new wages in the United States and computer science accounts for most new STEM jobs, according to However, Black and Latinx populations currently make up just 12-14 percent of Chicago’s tech workforce overall, an inequity driven largely by inadequate and uneven access to high quality computer science education opportunities. HIGH-TECH CHI aims to address this by exposing students to opportunities they might not otherwise discover.

“With the central role of computing in every sector of our economy, it’s our goal to make computer science not just more accessible but also a more compelling interest for a wider swath of Chicago’s youth,” said Mark Harris, director of the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs’ Community Education unit at DPI. “Our education programs serve K-12 students and teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, and adult learners to create a deeper and more inclusive pathway for students into the Chicago tech community. With all that we do, it’s our aim to make Chicago’s tech workforce the most resilient and inclusive in the nation.”

HIGH-TECH CHI will provide hands-on experiences for students, parents, and community members to learn about the latest technologies and relevant pathways into computer science. The event convenes workforce development partners, industry leaders, educational institutions, and others to create interactive exhibits and on-the-spot career training and preparation. The event will also feature a keynote talk from Amazon Web Services about the various applications of CS in Chicago’s dynamic tech industry, plus college-fair style interactions with each participating university and organization, and a panel discussion among current students, recent alumni, and leaders in Chicago’s tech community.

Chicago Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Brandie Knazze is enthusiastic about this initiative for CS Education Week. “The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services is incredibly pleased to partner with CS for Success and Discovery Partners Institute to host this event, which is designed to engage our youth and get them excited about the field of technology. The computer science field is rapidly growing and changing, and young people are the future tech leaders we need to invent new solutions and solve complex problems.”

“Google is honored to be the presenting sponsor of the HIGH-TECH CHI event this December,” said Shanika Hope, Google’s Director of Education for Social Impact. “We believe that every student should have access to the collaborative, coding, and technical skills that can unlock opportunities in the classroom and beyond, and CS Education Week is an important moment to join with our partners to celebrate this community’s efforts and ongoing commitment.”

Other event partners include the College of Engineering at University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Grainger College of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois Springfield, City Colleges of Chicago, Illinois Tech, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, Girls Who Code, and Code Nation.

HIGH-TECH CHI builds on DPI’s year-round suite of talent development programs as a part of its Pritzker Tech Talent Labs, which includes programming for middle grade, high school, community college, 4-year, and graduate students; K-12 teacher training programs; and workforce and upskilling programs, including the Tech Apprenticeship Program. These programs are focused on preparing students for post-secondary success and readiness and making connections to Chicago’s tech community. The broader goal is to expand the diversity and resiliency of the tech workforce in Illinois, with an emphasis on pathways into computer science, data science, and other tech-oriented fields.

In related work at a research unit of DPI, the Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative (IWERC), a study is underway to (a) analyze the landscape and structure of high school and post-secondary CS and tech education in the state and (b) understand the experiences of students within CS and tech fields, paying particular attention to historically minoritized groups – such as female, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latinx students. This project aims at improving equitable access and outcomes in CS and tech for minoritized learners in Illinois.