We love using our computer science (CS) and engineering skills to solve some of world’s most interesting and important problems. We also know that not enough students are pursuing careers in CS and that the U.S. currently has a 3-to-1 gap for computer and mathematical sciences jobs (that’s three job openings for every job seeker). So this year, for National Engineers Week, Google engineers across the country visited local middle schools and high schools to talk to more than 5,000 students about their own careers in computer science.

Instead of hosting students at Google for National Engineers Week as we’ve done in the past, this year we traveled to local communities to talk to the students on their own turf. Engineers Week fell during spring break in many areas, so we spread our school visits throughout the month of March.

As part of this event, I visited Odle Middle School in Bellevue, Washington with four other engineers from our Kirkland office. We split up into 16 different classrooms during the day, and talked about the importance of basic programming skills for all the sciences (it’s not just for CS majors!) before moving on to activities related to programming and algorithmic thinking (searching and sorting). It was a lot of fun to interact with the students—and we all left with a greater appreciation for the work that the teachers perform every day.

One of the engineers in our group is Japanese (his friends and family are fortunately all safe) and he gave a particularly resonant example of how CS can have a big impact. After the recent earthquake, geologists used computer models to predict where and when tsunamis were likely to hit coastal regions. This information was used to send warnings and direct resources where they were needed most. The speed and accuracy of these warnings is a credit to the scientists who combined their knowledge of geology with their programming expertise to produce these life-saving programs.

We really care about encouraging students to pursue careers in all the sciences (including computer science). By introducing students to interesting people who work in computer science, we hope we can inspire them to develop their own skills in this area.