PITTSBURG — In the future, maps may be embedded into eyeglasses, the streets may be filled with self-driving cars and doctors may be able to cure ailments at record speeds.

Co-Founder of the startup which became Google Earth, Google Maps, Street View, Ground Truth and developer of the efficiency program for matching drivers with riders in the Uber application, Brian McClendon, visited Pittsburg State University students and community on Friday.  The innovator is also running for Kansas Secretary of State.

McClendon said he encourages people to consider getting more involved in computer science.

“There is a ton of software involved — in figuring out either how do I figure out how to code inside a device or to write code to test the device in simulation so you do not have to use an animal or human to prove something works,” he said. “All of these problems require writing software.

“What I would like to see in Kansas is more emphasis is computer science.”

There are currently 2,200 open jobs in computer programing in Kansas and only 335 students in Kansas graduate in computer programming each year, he said.

He said in computer programming people, “can work on any passion you love and make it your job.” From sports to theater, whatever the passion is, he said, there is a “desperate” need for software programmers.

Only 10 percent of high schools in Kansas have AP computer programing classes, McClendon said. He said if more students took these classes, they will be more likely to take it in higher level education, and women more likely so. It will “even out the gender divide” in computer science, McClendon said.

“We need to get more women in STEM and computer programing,” he said.

He said getting teachers excited about teaching science and math is one of the ways to help foster an interest in younger children, and having computer science classes available for middle through high school students will give them an opportunity to explore software programming.

Pittsburg State University is also working on adding a new software programing major to the Department of Engineering Technology, department chair Greg Murray said, adding he agrees with McClendon that computer science has a lot to offer.

“He said it best when he said everybody should be able to do some sort of programming,” he said.
There is currently no date set up for the new program at the university.

After the lecture, McClendon shared with students and teachers ways to be successful as an software entrepreneur. He said to utilize existing hardware and software is one of the best ways to continue moving forward in technology. McClendon said technology in the past made it difficult, but now there is a lot of software and hardware readily available for programmers to utilize.

For example he said, by combining the data created for the map program and a machine learning program, they were able to create a new system which trained a computer to recognize numbers “with 98 percent accuracy 99 percent recall better than any two humans combined.”

“The power to use other people's software ... and bringing those together to achieve one goal can be applied to any industry,” he said.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.