Want help to teach kids to code? Go Ask Alice




When you own a software development company and you lead a foundation that encourages young girls to learn to code, you’re often asked about how we can get enough coders among our population. In fact, it seems that at most dinner parties we attend there’s at least one parent in the room that asks about how to help teach their children to develop technology skills. One team at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) must have been asked the same thing, as they’ve come up with one option. They call it Alice.

According to their website, Alice is designed to teach logical and computational thinking skills, fundamental principles of programming and to be a first exposure to object-oriented programming. It’s used by teachers but can easily be led by parents-as-teachers as well. Most start at middle school level, although it has regularly been used with younger children – and even those at university level.

Designed to provide the basics coding and software design, it includes game development but is also used to expand understanding of both logical and creative thinking. Studies done at CMU found proven benefits in engaging and retaining diverse and under-served groups in computer science education.

In and of itself, Alice is a fabulous teaching environment. The Alice Project as a whole, however, also provides supplemental tools and materials for teaching using Alice across a spectrum of ages and subject matter. They have established an active community, wherein teachers of all sorts interact to provide ideas and applications and talk through concerns or questions.
Alice starts with a simple drag-and-drop approach, to make the concept of programming less daunting. Students (and teachers!) progress quickly to develop stories through animation and sound, and ultimately even build games.

Why is it called Alice?


If you’ve ever had to name a product or a company in the past 20 years, you know how difficult it is to settle on something that’s not already taken. While many girls could be Alice Smith, there’s only one alicesmith.com, and acquiring the registered trademark is a complex process. As the creative folk at CMU tried to express this program, they thought, of course, of storytelling. Who better to embody the idea of Alice in Lewis Carroll’s The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. Carroll, a mathematician, novelist, and photographer, could do intellectually difficult things but also realized the most powerful thing was to be able to communicate clearly and in an entertaining way. This inspired CMU’s efforts to make something complex (programming) easy and fun. As they describe on their site, the name is also a very practical choice. The artwork associated with the Alice books is now in the public domain, its copyright having lapsed. Also, the name “Alice” has several other advantages: easy to spell and pronounce, it shows up at the top of alphabetized lists. Great marketing forethought!

What does it cost?


It’s so important to offer programming as a key still today that CMU has found a way to make this project a gift. In other words, it may cost you in time and energy, but there is no financial outlay. It’s free.
So, no matter the age of your children, go take a look at Alice. There may be a great storyteller inside your child’s mind, once they have the tools. You’ll find a link to it on our Foundation website, under Classroom Materials.

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Team hosts computer workshops in schools


Cucalorus, PS Solutions reached 90 students, mostly girls, ages 8-14.

The Cucalorus Festival brought a digital literacy program to local elementary and middle school students with a mobile Kids Coding Workshop. Students at Snipes Academy, Wrightsboro Elementary and GLOW Academy were given an opportunity to write simple codes that programmed and controlled super-small computers, or Arduinos. The program was sponsored by the PS Solutions Foundation.

“Coding is the language of computers,” explained Rob Hill, a filmmaker and Cucalorus outreach educator, as he led students at Snipes to engage in the programming exercise. “A computer program, or code, is a set of instructions that a computer follows to complete a task.” Leading the students through the coding program, Hill provided guidance to connect a circuit board to the computer and then program the computer to tell the circuit board to light up.

The workshops were scheduled over three days reaching some 90 students, mostly girls, ages 8 to 14. According to Wayne Hippo, managing partner of PS Solutions, “the girls tend to flourish and engage more readily without boys in the room. We want girls to see that computer science is a fun and gratifying field of study, and workshops such as these give them a good hands-on opportunity to learn and grow confident with new skills.”

Indeed, the girls showed immediate delight when lights flashed as a result of their coding exercise.

 

There is urgency to drawing more girls into fields of computer science. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment of software developers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. A tech talent vacuum means many of the jobs go unfilled, so broadening the pool of candidates is critical to U.S. competitiveness.

“Ultimately, we hope by providing young girls with experiences such as the Cucalorus Kids Coding Workshop, they might later consider studying for a career in computer science or programming,” Hippo said. “You never know when you are opening a door to possibilities that might otherwise never have been considered,” he says.

PS Solutions’ Foundation is a nonprofit committed to developing young girls’ interest in software engineering.

The coding workshops were part of Cucalorus Connect, an interactive convergence of technology entrepreneurship and creative arts. Expanding the festival’s media literacy programming, the digital literacy outreach works to draw people into the world of digital sciences, arts and communications.

PS Solutions is a software development firm that recently expanded to Wilmington from its Pennsylvania headquarters.

Team hosts computer workshops in schools


You Know PHP... But How's Your .NET?


For years your team has developed hypertext-based solutions. For both internal and client applications, you guys can rock you some PHP.

But the challenge has changed – and now you need to develop for Windows. You look into a framework that will support a series of different languages – you need access to a huge library that can share with multiple applications.

You need .NET.

But you don’t know .NET, and neither does your team. You can learn it… it’s not rocket science and your team knows C# and VB... besides, they’re really keen. But, you don’t have an extra month.

You need a .NET expert. Someone that will know how to get the Framework right, how to apply the appropriate tools. What you don’t need? To go through a hiring process. To sign someone on who has the skills you need for a short-term project. To get the project clearly laid out.

One of the great things about having PS Solutions as a partner is that we’re ready to help. We have a hefty team that’s facile with:

• Java
• .NET
• Python
• C#
• Android
… and a whole lot more.

We’ve worked in manufacturing, healthcare, finance, retail, transit, HR… you name the industry, we’ve likely coded for it.

So don’t stress. Just call PS.


Software firm PS Solutions opens in Wilmington


Company could bring on 15 employees, official says.

WILMINGTON -- A software development firm has opened in Wilmington, hoping to tap into the region’s growing fintech hub and other industries.

PS Solutions, an Altoona, Pennsylvania-based firm, is operating out of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This is the first PS Solutions location outside of Pennsylvania, where it also has an office in Pittsburgh.

Managing partner Wayne Hippo said the company develops software solutions for a variety of clients, from mid-size landscaping businesses to convenience store chains to national healthcare and corrections companies. He anticipates PS Solutions having its own Wilmington space and about 15 employees within the year.

“We’re pretty excited about it; it’s certainly the type of community we have been looking for,” he said. “Wilmington seems to be a growing community, willing to take on a lot of tech development.”

In addition to IT support, PS Solutions can develop software and provide programming to clients. Hippo said many of PS’s clients have been fintech -- or financial technology -- companies, an industry that’s growing roots in Wilmington through companies like nCino and the recently opened Apiture. Live Oak Bank is building space at its Wilmington campus that will house future fintech companies doing business with the bank.

Hippo said the presence of those and other tech companies helped draw PS Solutions to the Port City. Rather than locating in the Reasearch Triangle or Charlotte, Hippo said PS was looking for a North Carolina home that would offer future employees an attractive lifestyle.

“Not everyone wants to be in the heart of the big development areas,” he said. “There’s plenty of talent out there that thinks, ‘maybe there’s a better way of life’.”

PS plans to do business with clients throughout the Carolinas, and Hippo said the company is excited to keep tech talent in the Wilmington area.

“I think we’re really pleased at the reception so far, and we’re looking forward to a long-term partnership,” he said.

http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20180612/software-firm-ps-solutions-opens-in-wilmington


Altoona Mirror Article: Altoona tech firm opens NC Office


PS Solutions of Altoona and Pittsburgh is opening a Wilmington, N.C., office, bringing software development solutions to companies in the Carolinas that are hitting technology roadblocks.

PS Solutions offers a staff of software and project management professionals and serves major corporations and mid-sized entrepreneurs, providing programming and software development, contract IT services and onsite placement of IT professionals.

The company employs a diverse group of technology professionals with a commitment to solving the tech talent vacuum and keeping technology from moving off-shore. The company looks to grow its Carolina-based staff throughout the year.

“Wilmington offers an im­portant new business landscape for us, opening ave­nues to RTP and the southeast region,” Wayne Hippo, managing partner of PS Solutions, said in a statement. “We look forward to serving the growing fintech, health care and service sector economy, all of which rely on secure, scalable and state-of-the-art software solutions.”

“Ours is a team of creative problem solvers,” co-owner Joe Merilli said in a statement. “We are very adept at finding innovative solutions, whether our clients are facing changing technologies, expanding services or are even entering the technology/software world for the first time. We pride ourselves in working alongside our clients to solve their technology and software problems.”

Below is the link to the article: http://www.altoonamirror.com/news/local-news/2018/06/altoona-tech-firm-opens-nc-office/


Software Development Firm PS Solutions Opens Wilmington, NC Office


PS Solutions fills regional skills gap and provides on-shore solutions for

companies facing technology roadblocks

  Wilmington, NC – May 29, 2018 -- PS Solutions is opening a Wilmington, NC, office bringing creative solutions in software development to companies in the Carolinas that are hitting technology roadblocks. PS Solutions offers a staff of software and project management professionals and serves major corporations and mid-size entrepreneurs alike, providing programming and software development, contract IT services, and onsite placement of IT professionals. With offices in Altoona and Pittsburgh, the company employs a diverse group of technology professionals with a commitment to solving the tech talent vacuum and keeping technology from moving off-shore. PS Solutions is currently working out of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on College Road and is looking to grow its Carolina-based staff throughout the year.

“Wilmington offers an important new business landscape for us, opening avenues to RTP and the southeast region,” said Wayne Hippo, managing partner of PS Solutions. “We look forward to serving the growing fintech, healthcare and service sector economy, all of which rely on secure, scalable and state-of-the-art software solutions.” The company works for a broad range of clients who need help with .net, Java and Android platforms, providing creative and cost-saving solutions to support their growth.

Creative Solutions to Technology Problems PS Solutions can scale its expertise for Fortune 500 and multi-national corporations, mid-size companies and start-ups, alike. Clients have included:
  • A convenience retail chain of 500 stores that required an enterprise-wide platform for HR systems
  • A landscape design company working to update its web portal and develop an app for real-time field-staff communications
  • A national education organization that, having invested nearly $2 million in a failed offshore software re-write, turned to PS Solutions to transition proprietary but outdated user-facing technology to a web-enabled standard.
“Ours is a team of creative problem solvers,” explains Mr. Hippo, “we are adept at secure solutions for our fin-tech clients and have HIPPA-certified developers for our healthcare clients.”

Keeping IT Stateside The trend of off-shoring technology development and IT support is a critical driver for Mr. Hippo and his partner, Joe Merilli. The two are committed to providing an accessible solution to companies who wish to keep their technology in the US. “Technology affects every aspect of our lives, so it is important that we, as a country, control how it is developed and applied,” explains Mr. Hippo. With comparisons to America’s furniture and textile industries, he asks, “Do we really want to offshore our banking and healthcare technologies? Keeping software development here at home is a matter of national security,” he says.

About PS Solutions PS Solutions, a software development firm headquartered in Altoona, PA, with offices in Pittsburgh and Wilmington, NC, uses US-based developers to alleviate the technology talent vacuum. The company’s creative approach to software development services earned them a position on the Inc. 5000 list, in the top 150 fastest growing IT Services Private Companies (133) and ranked 7th in Pennsylvania.


Inspire Act


On February 28, 2017, the President signed the “Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Act” into law.  The primary aim of the bill is to compel the director of NASA to encourage women and girls to study within the STEM fields.  The purpose of this act is to support NASA and help women to consider and pursue a career in aerospace.  NASA will use three initiatives to support the efforts; the NASA GIRLS AND NASA BOYS programs, Aspire to Inspire, and the Summer Institute in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research.

The INSPIRE Act is one additional step in what needs to be a comprehensive approach to break down the glass ceiling for women in many STEM fields.  We currently have a tremendous shortage of US trained personnel to fill the many opportunities in STEM fields.  The US is currently losing thousands of jobs overseas, simply because we don’t have trained people to do the work required.  While not anywhere near a cure for the problem INSPIRE is a step in the right direction.  The fastest fix to this problem is to make sure that women are given every opportunity to go after what are often traditionally male opportunities in the STEM fields.

PS Solutions Foundation is dedicated to helping young girls get exposure to STEM opportunities, particularly software engineering in the hopes that they will be encouraged to pursue the field as they work through their educational path. PS Solutions Foundation has provided scholarships for girls participating in science camps at Penn State Altoona.


Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act


The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act was signed into law on February 28, 2017.  It was one of two bills designed to encourage woman to pursue careers in science and business fields.  This Act allows the National Science Foundation to encourage entrepreneurial programs for women.  These programs will allow women the opportunity to strive for careers in the STEM fields from the lab to the commercial world.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, they only hold 25.6 percent of computer and mathematical occupations and only 15.4 percent of architecture and engineering occupations.  At the college level, women only earn 18 percent of computer science degrees.

Founded in 2012, PS Solutions Foundation focuses local efforts at encouraging young women to develop an interest in software engineering.  The Foundation partners with educational providers to engage the young women so they can explore Computer Science and hopefully one day strive for a career within the field.  There is a large opportunity for women within the STEM fields and this Act will hopefully be only one step in a comprehensive plan to help grow those opportunities for women.


News on Latest Cyber Attack


The most recent attack on Friday, May 12 affected 200,000 victims across at least 150 countries worldwide.  The latest attack comes from ransomware known as WannaCry.  Ransomware is software that blocks access by encrypting your data until a ransom is paid.  It displays a message that requests money to unlock access.  There has been an international search for the perpetrators behind the attack, being led by the Europol, the European Union’s Police Agency.  Luckily, there has been no second wave of attacks with many watching to see what the start of the new workweek brings.

The WannaCry Ransomware takes advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.  Microsoft released a security patch in March to correct the problem.  However, there are many companies that do not automatically update their systems to incorporate the Windows patches.  A prime reason for not wanting to do so, is that often the newer releases or patches cause problems with companies operating legacy software programs.  Essentially, these companies have been running the gamble of not upgrading the security patches so they don’t have to spend potentially significant money to upgrade the legacy software.

If you are considering doing a rewrite of your software systems, consider contacting PS Solutions for a quote.  Our rural outsourcing program allows you to save thousands of dollars by utilizing our Altoona-based software engineers.  You save money, keep jobs in the USA, and avoid the risks of the unknown results of gambling on using overseas development companies.


PS Solutions Makes Recommendations in Light of Latest Cyber Attack


While companies need to make the decision about investing money to upgrade legacy software, everyone should be considering the following steps to reduce the risk of downloading ransomware:

  • Do not open emails from someone you do not know or trust.
  • Never open an attachment within an email from a company or person you do not know.
  • Never click on a link inside of an email.
  • Never reply to SPAM emails.
  • Always use a SPAM filter/ Anti- Virus software.
Utilize these tips to protect yourselves and your technology.  Cyber attacks are an increasing risk and it is better to be prepared and safe.



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At PS Solutions, we believe that software and technology are important in our day-to-day lives. Our goal is to ensure that the computer code running everything from banking our healthcare to national security is written, protected and stored right here in the USA. We hire top-flight software developers who creatively solve problems and we put them to work here in the USA. Let’s tackle your software projects together, using American creativity and “know how”.

FIND OUT MORE


Altoona Development Center
1601 Eleventh Avenue
Ste. 201
Altoona, PA, 16601

Pittsburgh Development Center
1500 Ardmore Boulevard
Ste. 500
Pittsburgh, PA, 15221

Wilmington Development Center
2109 Capital Drive
Ste. 170
Wilmington, NC, 28405