Dev Catalyst is committed to preparing high school students for profitable careers in technology-based fields, such as advanced manufacturing.

According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, over the last five years, Tennessee has ranked in the Top 10 for the largest percentage increase in the United States in manufacturing GDP, which reached $49.1 billion in 2016, making it 17% of the state’s total GDP. Advanced manufacturing job creation in Tennessee, in particular, far outpaces the rate of national growth.

Technology has revolutionized the manufacturing industry. The incorporation of robots on the assembly line has led to quicker, more efficient production. Companies have also streamlined the manufacturing and production process by using computer-aided design software.

“Today’s manufacturing facilities are not what they used to be. Instead of needing physical labor to operate the machines, these facilities require programmers to digitally command the machines to function properly,” said Dan Drogosh, operations manager at theCO. “Many people think that coding is only for building websites, when, in fact, it can be applied in advanced manufacturing’s automated processes.”

As companies are continually seeking educated, well-trained workers, Dev Catalyst not only teaches students how to secure jobs in the tech sector but also the quickly evolving world of manufacturing.

“There is something really exciting about seeing a student learn how to code and then watch them realize that the same thought process can be applied to robotics in an advanced manufacturing facility,” Drogosh said.

Dev Catalyst students learn how to apply code in a wide range of situations and areas of technology. In the Dev Catalyst Raspberry Pi competition, one group of students devised a self-watering plant system. Sensors connected to a Raspberry Pi microcomputer assess environmental factors like temperature and soil moisture to determine when a plant needs to be watered, then the computer prompts a motor to pump water into the plant’s pot.

“We see students learn new programming languages and then they create. They create websites and apps, relational databases and physical products, said Molly Plyler, head of Dev Catalyst and theCO’s educational outreach coordinator. “Each year our Dev Catalyst judges are impressed at the new levels these students are able to achieve with their competition projects.”

Dev Catalyst students also compete for an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco, where they tour some of the most prominent tech companies, such as Google, LinkedIn, and Pivotal.

“Dev Catalyst allows students to explore the world of tech and learn a variety of coding languages which can be applied in endless ways,” Plyler said. “As we work with schools across Tennessee, we see students’ eyes light up as they exclaim, ‘I’m good at this. I think coding might be my thing.’ At the end of the day, this is why Dev Catalyst is committed to improving technology education for Tennessee students.”