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Sentinel High School student Jackson Servheen, 17, works on a server in Dan Lande's networking class earlier this month.

TOMMY MARTINO, Missoulian

The growing computer science program at Sentinel High School is getting another boost.

On Monday, Missoula County Public Schools announced that Sentinel's computer science program landed a $3,500 grant from Missoula company Advanced Technology Group.

"I found out we got it yesterday," said Dan Lande, who teaches three computer science courses at the school.

He said the program will use the funding for technology enhancements in the classrooms, such as a better projector to fit more lines of code, an uninterruptible power supply for the networking rack and 3-D printers "so that when the power goes out we don't lose all our configurations," as well as helping to fund expenses for various computer science competitions.

"The details are still to be worked out on what else," he said. "This ... extra money helps us get cutting-edge technology so our students get exposed to that before they head to college and the real world. It came from nowhere, so we're really excited about it."

ATG approached the school district this year, wanting to support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programs. The company recently created an employee philanthropy committee, which recommended the donation.

ATG consults for software, digital media, infrastructure, service and telecommunications companies to better manage their customers and billing systems. Earlier this year, they expanded their offices, added employees and worked with the University of Montana and MCPS on technology in curriculum.

"A couple of students came with the Management Information Systems department from UM last year and spoke to my classes because a lot of people come out of business school, the MIS program, and find jobs at ATG," Lande said.

"Donations are always great, but it's the student exposure thing. They can see job opportunities available here in Missoula and in Montana as a whole."

The donation announcement came on the same day that Denise Juneau, state superintendent of public instruction, announced voluntary guidelines for digital literacy and computer science, modeling them after the Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework.

"The response (from Montana educators) was positive with the caveat that teachers may need additional professional development to effectively implement the guidelines," Juneau wrote in a letter accompanying the guidelines.

The Office of Public Instruction and an advisory committee representing business, K-12 and higher education are working on a professional development plan.

"To be successful in today's digital world, students need to know how to use computers and other digital tools to solve problems, develop new innovations, and work across disciplines," Juneau said. "The jobs of today and tomorrow require the ability to understand and use information in a variety of digital formats. From construction to health care and agriculture to education, technology plays an ever increasing role."

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