By Jonah Grinkewitz

Students from three Virginia high schools won pizza parties for their schools by completing a fun and easy Old Dominion University coding game.

Code4Pizza, in its second year, is designed to expose students to the creative side of computer science and electrical and computer engineering as they play a coding minigame to build virtual pizzas.

The initiative stems from ODU's participation in the commonwealth's Tech Talent Investment Program, aimed at increasing the tech talent pipeline in Virginia. ODU hopes to encourage more students to enter the computer science and electrical and computer engineering disciplines in the next two decades.

Floyd E. Kellam High School in Virginia Beach came in first place and will receive a gift card for 125 pizzas. Meridian High School in Falls Church and Grassfield High School in Chesapeake tied for second, and both schools will receive a gift card for approximately 85 pizzas.

John Yager, a mathematics teacher at Kellam High School, said hands-on experience and interaction with universities is valuable for high school students.

"Many students just go through high school without seeing what is outside of school," he said. "An experience like this gives them a taste - no pun intended - of how fun STEM can be."

Students from Grassfield High School visited ODU on May 25 and learned about the University's undergraduate programs, research opportunities and internship pathways.

Joe Carpenter, a junior in an advanced programming computer science class at the school, said he plans to pursue a degree in game studies and design at ODU.

"That would be my dream career," he said. "Ever since I was young, I've enjoyed messing around with computers and learning to program."

Jessi LaBruno, another student in the class, said coding is more of a hobby for her, but she hopes to use those skills in a career in the medical field.

Nearly 300 students from across Virginia participated in the challenge.

Susan Jinks, a computer science teacher at Meridian High School, said she wants to get more students at her school involved with the competition next year.

"I would like to complete this activity with my middle school kids because I am constantly trying to show them that coding can be creative and fun," she said.

To learn more about the Tech Talent Pipeline at ODU visit:

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