Google Launches A Santa Tracker To Teach Kids How To Code

CREDIT: Google

Google is using the excitement of getting presents on Christmas Day to get kids interested in computer coding.

The tech giant has launched a Santa Tracker that puts budding coders in the center of St. Nick’s North Pole town, where kids can unlock videos, games and music in the days leading up to Christmas. Educational lessons are sprinkled throughout the month, where kids learn skills such as JavaScript and cartography. There’s also an interactive map to teach children how other cultures celebrate Christmas.

The game culminates on Christmas Eve, when users get behind the helm of Santa’s high-tech sleigh dashboard and track his movements through the night with help from Google Maps through the site, apps or with Chromecast.

Since releasing its diversity numbers earlier this year, Google has been rolling out programs to get children, especially girls and minorities, interested in coding early. The company’s diversity report showed how overwhelmingly white and male the company was, and Google pledged to spearhead initiatives that could create a more robust workforce in the future.

Google has since launched Made With Code, an initiative to help encourage school-aged girls to study computer science. The company also donates millions of dollars to support outreach programs like Black Girls Code, with plans to expand more high level computer science programs typically offered in predominately white, affluent schools. Blacks and Hispanics generally make up less than 5 percent of computer science degree holders. Minority computer science degree holders are often overlooked because tech companies don’t recruit talent from historically black colleges and universities, which produce about 35 percent of black computer science majors.

In focusing on students, Google and other tech companies are attempting to close the gap in the workforce that starts before college. While 80 percent of high school students don’t know what computer science majors learn, female students unfamiliar with the subject often believed it was “boring” and “hard.” Over two thirds of boys felt computer science would be a good career choice, while almost half of girls said a career in computers would be “bad,” with only 14 percent of boys agreeing with them. And despite the growing demand for tech jobs, only 1 percent of high school girls believed coding would be a part of their future.