The second annual Hour of Code challenge will take place next week from December 8-14. The initiative was launched last year by nonprofit Code.org in an effort to promote tech learning and was a resounding success, receiving support from President Barack Obama and IT giants Apple Inc., Facebook and Microsoft. According to the organizers, some 15 million children participated in the challenge, and all signs point to that number being shattered this time around.

During the event, students are challenged to write lines of code following specific goals. According to the official website, nearly 70,000 events are programmed for this year's edition in 180 countries. The United States will host nearly half of those, with 574 scheduled for Wisconsin alone. Most of them will take place at schools across the state.

Apple will be stepping up its participation in the 2014 edition, hosting events at 446 of its retail stores worldwide. Reservations are required, but all the workshops are free. Besides the programmed Hour of Code introduction to programming for children, Apple will be offering all participants courses on the finer points of its own hardware and software products, from the basics of iPad, iPhone and Mac usage to specific apps.

Two of the available workshops are specifically designed to help users take full advantage of iOS and Mac in the corporate world, in keeping with the emphasis Apple has placed on the business functionality of its products as part of its recent rollout. Specialized Apple consultants can also assist with services including Mac IT support, iOS management and iPad deployment.