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Making apps and taking names

Young Maine students are tapping into the world of coding, and already proving they have what it takes to become the next generation of engineers.

SOUTH PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Maine students, some as young as eight-years-old, are making their own apps. They’re coding, not only digital coloring books and language translators, but the framework for their future careers. Those in the tech industry also have their sights set on the bigger picture.

Lion Peterson-Goad is starting his freshman year of high school this fall. He learned how to code three months ago and has already made 3 apps. One that he created, translates words or sentences from English to Spanish. He says it remains a work in progress.

“I tried turning it into French to make it easier for my French classes," said Peterson-Goad, "but that didn't work out.”

He says although coding can be time consuming and challenging, learning the skill is empowering. He remembers what went through his mind the moment he successfully coded his first app.

"I was like, 'hey it worked! I can move on to the next one!'"

“Coding is challenging but the results are fun,” said 14-year-old Jared Biaya.

"It might be hard but keep on trying again," said Biaya's younger sister, Joyce, who also participates in the same coding program.

They are among the thirty Portland area students taking part in a CodeX program. It's a collaborative effort by South Portland based WEX, a provider of corporate payment solutions, and both the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA.

"There's a shortage of engineers on a national basis, it's particularly acute here within the Portland area," said Ryan Taylor, vice president of corporate payments technology at WEX.

Taylor started the program after noticing a need to invest in and inspire the next generation of engineers.

"I don't know of any engineer that doesn't have a job that's looking for one right now," he said.

The fourteen kids in the program were surprised with their own laptops Tuesday, but they got them on the premise that they will continue to teach their peers about coding.