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Diversity Students
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Who: Jeffrey Chiampi

Where are you from?

 I’m from NEPA


What do you do?

I teach computer science and video game courses at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.  As part of my job, I get to assign video games as homework. Cool, right?

How did you get involved in programming?

At a young age, I wanted to make my own video games. After working in the information technology (IT) field, I returned to Penn State to complete my master degrees in Business Administration and Software Engineering. Now, I teach and conduct research on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).


Why are you a part of this program?

I’m excited that students as young as 6th grade are going to have the opportunity to learn programming. As someone who was excited about programming from a young age, I can’t wait to see what the students create with their new skills.

How did you get involved in programming?

When I took C++, a programming language, in college, it was a time when programming was only going to be used if you were looking for a job as a computer programmer. However, these days, there are so many electronic items that can be coded for use in your home and for fun. Learning how to code makes it possible to automate so many different things. You can program your lights to come on when they detect motion or even lock your front door without having to leave the couch. Using many of these products requires computation thinking or coding.


What’s cool about the Coding the Coal Region program?

It’s exciting to teach students coding, to help ignite their passion and show them how many different places coding can be used in everyday life and where it can take them. Programming is not only fun, it’s also a logical, step-by-step reasoning skill that will prove useful throughout each student’s life.  



Who: Andy Bloom

Where are you from?

I’m a native of NEPA


What do you do?

I’m a teacher full time at Northwest Area High School and an adjunct faculty member at Penn State Wilkes-Barre where I teach the engineering design course. We do things such as learn engineering concepts, build LEGO robots, and how to do 3D printing using CAD software.



Who: Donovan Gaffney

Where are you from?

 I am from Kingston, Pennsylvania


What do you do?

I am a computer science student, research assistant, and tutor at Penn State.

How did you get involved in programming?

The first time I was introduced to programming was during my freshman year in high school. I took an introductory programming course that covered the programming language Alice, which is very similar to Scratch. Ever since then I have been very interested in programming and now, I am a research assistant to Jeffrey Chiampi for creating a virtual reality (VR) simulation of surveying engineering labs.


Why are you part of the Coding the Coal Region program?

The Coding the Coal Region program is a fantastic opportunity for grades 6-12 to learn how to program. When I was younger, I would have loved for such a program like this to exist and now I am lucky enough to be an instructor for it!


How did you get involved in programming?

As a kid, I was always fascinated with computers—both hardware and software applications. Then in high school, I began programming Arduino microcontrollers and have been drawn to programming ever since. At Penn State, I received a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, but specialized in computer engineering. This led me to my current position with Penn State performing software engineering applications.


Why are you involved in teaching the Coding the Coal Region program?

I am overjoyed to share my passion for programming with interested students by teaching this curriculum. Coding skills will serve students when they enter the current job market where it is imperative to have unique skills to set them apart from other candidates.


Who: Connor Gaffney

Where are you from?

Wyoming Valley and I went to Wyoming Valley West, and currently live in the State College area.


What do you do?

 I’m a research engineer for Penn State.



Who: Joe Fioti           

Where are you from?

Dallas, Pennsylvania


What do you do?

 I’m an assistant researcher and

student at Penn State.

How did you get involved in programming?

I always loved video games and wanted to make my own. When I was 13, I learned to code, and started making simple 2D games. When I was 14, I released my first mobile app to iOS and Android and have since published 4 other apps. I have been developing games, desktop software, websites, machine learning programs, and much more ever since.


Why are you involved in teaching the Coding the Coal Region program?

When I was in middle and high school, no good programs for coding existed, so I had to teach myself nearly everything I know. This is a long and tedious process, so I am glad that I can help kids coming after me to speed up their learning process and hopefully spare them the work I had to do to learn my skills. I also believe this program will act as a litmus test for many kids who are curious about computer science and want to explore.

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