Amazon.com Inc. executives were among those who provided encouragement to Barrington schoolchildren Tuesday as part of a worldwide computer science initiative.
Barrington Village President Karen Darch joined the Amazon executives as speakers at St. Anne Parish School's Hour of Code celebration. Barrington Area Unit District 220 also had Hour of Code activities, with an associate from accounting firm KPMG US featured in a Roslyn Road Elementary School fifth-grade classroom.
Hour of Code, which is part of Computer Science Education Week, started in 2013 and is meant to be a fun way to demystify the process and show anyone can learn the basics.
Teachers in at least 180 countries this week are expected to dedicate an hour to educating students about coding, which is a process to make computers follow specific instructions.
At St. Anne, Hardik Bhatt, who was the state's chief information officer for the past two years until he joined Amazon Web Services in September, told the students that if one day they see robots cooking and delivering their hamburgers at a fast-food restaurant. they should remember humans were behind the creation.
"Who is Mark Zuckerberg? He's a human," said Bhatt, who previously worked as the city of Chicago's chief information officer and at Cisco Systems Inc. "Who is Bill Gates? He's a human. Who is Warren Buffett? He's a human."
Bhatt also got the children to think about how technology is at work when they use a water faucet or turn on the lights.
Amazon Web Services sales executive Kim Majerus-Skonie, whose children attend St. Anne, said knowledge about science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics could lead to careers in writing, marketing and other jobs.
In addition, Majerus-Skonie had a message for girls who might be interested in technology, which remains a male-dominated profession. She said she began her tech career while an Addison Trail High School student and was the only girl who joined a Motorola Inc. work program in 1987.
"It's OK to be different," Majerus-Skonie said. "It's OK to think about being the only one doing something different."
KPMG's Nidhi Kulkarni answered coding questions in Andrew Carter's fifth-grade classroom at Roslyn Road Elementary. Student Kaelyn Louis was among those who enjoyed the coding exercises that followed Kulkarni's presentation.
"I like how there's different choices of what you can code," Kaelyn said.
"You can code robots, but you also code different games and stuff. I like that."
Other suburban school systems participating in Hour of Code this week include Elgin Area School District U-46 and Des Plaines Elementary District 62.
Amazon, Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America are among the entities behind Hour of Code.