In its fourth year the annual Back-To-School Code-A-Thon supports students in exploring the world of entrepreneurship and software development. Taking place across the US in three states, NY, PA, and OH, each year we set out to bring an exciting program to communities that would not normally be exposed to this type of immersive learning experience in their regular school district programs. Our goals; to increase interest in the fastest growing career opportunities, increase diversity in computer science participation, and support communities in building the workforce skills necessary to grow and build innovative solutions that solve global problems.

Westbury, NY 2019 Code-A-Thon Participants

Westbury, NY 2019 Code-A-Thon Participants

Darby, PA 2019 Code-A-Thon Participants

Darby, PA 2019 Code-A-Thon Participants

Fremont, OH 2019 Code-A-Thon Participants

Fremont, OH 2019 Code-A-Thon Participants

Each year a team of volunteers sets out to plan and execute on their local 48 hour program. All orchestrated to take place simultaneously across the sites involved. For the past four years that planning has taken place beginning in late August- September until the final date of the program, taking place the last weekend in January. The site lead in Darby, PA, Jennifer Hoff who is not only a School Board member for the district in Darby, PA, but runs her own business Hoff Communications, Inc. . Jennifer is key to the program's success each year. Her passion to support her community is evident in her dedication to ensure students within the district and surrounding communities get the chance to experience what a career in coding feels like.

Jennifer Hoff - Site Lead Darby

Jennifer Hoff - Site Lead Darby

Jennifer helping a student with her mind map

Jennifer helping a student with her mind map

This program has grown organically each year with more students participating and more communities seeking interest in bringing this program to their students. In the first two years of the program we were lucky to have the opportunity to partner with a team in Australia led by Kathy Bunce, a Harvard Alumna and very close friend of mine. Unfortunately in 2017, Kathy lost a battle to a rare form of cancer and the team is recovering from her loss. We hope to someday bring the Perth, Australia Code-A-Thon site back in honor of all the hard work Kathy accomplished in bringing this program to much needed communities of Western Australia.

 
2017 Code-A-Thon - Perth Australia Site - Site Lead Kathy Bunce (Bottom row far right)

2017 Code-A-Thon - Perth Australia Site - Site Lead Kathy Bunce (Bottom row far right)

2017 Code-A-Thon - Perth Australia Site - Site Lead Kathy Bunce (Center)

2017 Code-A-Thon - Perth Australia Site - Site Lead Kathy Bunce (Center)

In 2017 we were contacted by two engineers from the community of Sandusky County, OH. These two young engineers saw the need to engage their community in an immersive learning experience designed to teach coding skills. Like Jennifer Hoff,  Elizabeth Royster, and Doug Steinberger wanted more for the students in their community, their passion to support their community is demonstrated in their hard work over the past two years engaging students from areas across OH, where in some cases students traveling over an hour to be a part of the program. Both Doug and Elizabeth work full time in engineering careers, and see the career opportunities going unfilled due to the lack of training and skills development surrounding these new growing careers that require strong communications skills, computational thinking, and problem solving skills. 

2019 Code-A-Thon Fremont, OH - Site Leads - Elizabeth Royster and and Doug Steinberger, along with the first place winning team.

2019 Code-A-Thon Fremont, OH - Site Leads - Elizabeth Royster and and Doug Steinberger, along with the first place winning team.

Having passionate leaders willing to commit their own personal time to engage their entire community in an immersive learning program is just part of what it takes to bring this program to life. In order to ensure the program's success, they need to feed the students and build the volunteer participation to execute the program. With the primary site hosted in Westbury, NY at the WCTD facility our team supports the planning, fundraising, and instructors for the overall program delivery.

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Thank you to the Westside Cafe for the generous donation of Lunch and Dinner on Saturday for our Westbury site location.

Thank you to The Harvest Diner in Westbury for the generous donation of breakfast both Saturday and Sunday morning.

Thank you to The Harvest Diner in Westbury for the generous donation of breakfast both Saturday and Sunday morning.

Students like Vincent Occhiogrosso from SUNY Farmingdale were flown to Fremont, OH to teach students foundations in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Raffi Sanna a senior at Cold Spring Harbor High School dedicated his free time to support the design of the curriculum and taught the students at the Westbury, NY location. These students would not have been successful without the help from industry partners like Microsoft, and Adobe. 

Raffi Sanna - Westbury Site - Instructor for first year participants

Raffi Sanna - Westbury Site - Instructor for first year participants

Vincent Occhiogrosso - Fremont Site - Instructor for first and second year participants

Vincent Occhiogrosso - Fremont Site - Instructor for first and second year participants

A huge shout out and thank you to John Wargo, who commits his time with us each year in supporting us to design curriculum, teaching our student instructors, and this year participated in teaching students at the Darby, PA location advanced JavaScript and React. 

John Wargo - Darby Site - Instructor for third year participants, advanced web development

John Wargo - Darby Site - Instructor for third year participants, advanced web development

John's passion for supporting students to learn to code provided us with a connection to Kerri Shotts, Kerri is a ROCKSTAR! For the past two years Kerri has supported our Westbury, NY Code-A-Thon location teaching Advanced Web Development. John, Kerri, Vincent, and Raffi are supported by local industry developers who come out to each site location to engage as mentors.  These mentors are there as support to teach the students how they problem solve, and take the opportunity to share with the students how they built their careers and how they gained support from their network of peers.

Kerri Shotts - Westbury Site - Instructor for second and third year participants, advanced JavaScript and advanced web development

Kerri Shotts - Westbury Site - Instructor for second and third year participants, advanced JavaScript and advanced web development

As a team we could not execute on this program without the volunteers who help drive things in the background.  A big thank you to Allison Bloom for leading our Volunteer Recruitment for the past four years. To our social media and marketing team, Tuqa Youssef, and Maureen Sanchez. To Anam Javaid for her incredible talent for designing this year's Tshirts, and to the team at Spectrum Designs for their partnership over the past two years to support a low cost tshirt for each of our students, volunteers, and mentors.

TShirts designed by Anam Javaid

TShirts designed by Anam Javaid

Thank you to all our mentors who dedicated their weekend to share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of developers.

Thank you to all our mentors who dedicated their weekend to share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of developers.

There are so many community members that are responsible for this program's success some at the local level like Chris Gomez at Darby supporting teaching and mentoring students, to Cathy Monacella who is my right hand in ensuring we are ready to go in Westbury, to Mitra Ramdas a teacher and parent from Roosevelt School District, who spent the entire weekend with us supporting our team and the students participating. Thank you to Nicholas Leask for supporting the program as a mentor for students, and for supporting me throughout the weekend.  To Melissa Wylie for her support in running the consulting business while I volunteer my time to support WCTD.

Nicholas Leask - LCC - STEAM Coach

Nicholas Leask - LCC - STEAM Coach

But wait there is more… A huge thank you to Maestro for his support over the past three years, arriving every morning full of energy to get the students up and motivated for the day through exercises. To all the financial supporters who believe in the work we are doing to support the transformation of education and ensuring that every student has the opportunity to learn and succeed in a career in STEAM in their future.  To the volunteer judges who came out on Sunday to support us in providing students feedback and evaluating the projects. Thank you to all of our volunteers and sponsors who made this program possible.

Westbury Site Judges, from left to right, Kerri Shotts, Thomas Carey, Michael Carey, Tyler Schum

Westbury Site Judges, from left to right, Kerri Shotts, Thomas Carey, Michael Carey, Tyler Schum

Fremont Site Judges

Fremont Site Judges

And finally… To my family, and all the families of our volunteers, who have supported us for the past 6 years in building this organization, thank you for putting up with missed dinners, missed events, and for allowing us to make education a top priority.

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And yes, but what about the winning teams?  The reason we are all here, and why we commit our time and resources, it is all demonstrated in the outcomes that are produced by the students. Students who commit their entire weekend to learn to work together, to solve global problems, and yes learn to code.  A big shout out to this year's winning teams! Check out their incredible work!

Westbury Student Projects:

First Place - Team #1, Capsule Net: https://we-connect-the-dots.github.io/Codathon_2019_Team_1_Westbury/

Second Place - Team #10, Anzen: https://erin122800.github.io/Anzen/Anzen%20Homepage%20HTML.html

Third Place - Team #6, Deadly Deceases in Africa: https://we-connect-the-dots.github.io/Codathon_2019_Team_6_Westbury/

Team #2, Nairobi: https://we-connect-the-dots.github.io/Codathon_2019_Team_2_Westbury/

Team #4, Project Environment: https://we-connect-the-dots.github.io/Codathon_2019_Team_4_Westbury/

Team #7, Anit-Hunger Organization: https://we-connect-the-dots.github.io/Codathon_2019_Team_7_Westbury/

Team #8, Education for All: https://we-connect-the-dots.github.io/Codathon_2019_Team_8_Westbury/

Darby Student Projects:

First Place - Team #5, Nutri-Go: https://nutrigo.github.io/index.html# 

Second Place - Team #6, Operators: https://learningequality28.github.io

Third Place - Team #4, Man vs. Nature: https://man-v-s-nature.github.io/

Team #1, We Stand: https://from-here-we-stand.github.io/

Team #2, EPE: https://excellenceprideempowerment.github.io/

Team #3, Dangers of Drugs: https://dangersofdrugs.github.io/

Fremont Student Projects: (Check back for links)

First Place - Team #5, Human impact on animals:

Second Place - Team #3, Cause and effects of healthy and unhealthy diets:

Third Place - Team #2, Helping others know you care:

Team #1 -Humans impacted the Earth:

Team #4. Music therapy:

Team #6, Keeping it clean keep it green:

How can you help us?

Learn how you can support our organizations initiatives here: https://www.we-connect-the-dots.org/donate/

Looking to bring this program to your community? Deadline for new site locations is May 1st, 2019

For more information - review our Host information packet

What’s coming next…

Watch for our program research summary article being published later this month.  This will incorporate the impact metrics from this year’s program, our pre and post assessment taken by participants across all the locations. This research helps our organization create continuous improved and measures our learning outcomes for participants.

 

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

Help support our upcoming Code-A-Thon 2019

To learn more about this years program and the metrics we have gathered for this years participants, check out our blog post here: WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? We hope that by sharing these metrics in advance of the program that you might consider how you can support us in driving systemic change to address the digital divide. Our program is just weeks away and we need your help in the following areas prioritized in order of most important.

FOOD:

We need funds or in-kind donations of food. Each site has 50 students and we need funds or in-kind donations for 6 meals and snacks over the weekend. Coding requires energy and our brain uses over 20% of our energy source so having healthy food for the students ensures greater value in the outcomes for each participant. (To learn more about the energy required to think)

Lanyards & Badges:

Having a badge with your name on it so you can be distinguished among your peers is important. It helps us identify the teams students are assigned to and helps our mentors and our instructors with making a greater connection to participants. For security reasons it is also important for us to manage participants throughout the overall program. We are working to incorporate knowledge mastery badges that will attach to the lanyards students can earn to show knowledge mastered, funding permitted.

T-Shirts:

When you have a large group of students in a room it is helpful to distinguish between the volunteers and the students. We utilize colored T-shirts to differentiate visually, and it is our way of thanking the volunteers and mentors for their contribution. We hope to continue this model and incorporate additional colors based on alumni status for participants.

Prizes:

We do not believe in participation awards, but we do believe in motivation approaches that drive excitement for success and team work. Each year we have been lucky to provide students with amazing prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams at each site location. Some years the prizes have been more valuable than others, but overall it is about recognition and demonstrating to the students that hard work does pay off in amazing ways, and that when a team works hard together they can produce something you can be extremely proud of. We have made this our lowest priority for obvious reasons, but hope that we might have in-kind donations of technology equipment or gift cards that students can utilize .

To become a SPONSOR

To make a general donation: DONATE

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

2019 is going to be an amazing year for our organization and we need your help to continue to drive results. Starting tomorrow you will begin to see and hear some exciting news regarding our progress as an organization and the work we have accomplished. We have our upcoming Code-A-Thon program that is now in its fourth year of running. Normally we would send out our metrics post the program to share with our sponsors, and supporters of our organization. This year I thought we might take a different approach and share some metrics earlier, with the goal to get more sponsors to help support our success.

During the month of December everyone is getting bombarded with emails and requests for funding support and we have always prided our organization as not being one of those organizations that is in a constant drive for funds in hopes that those supporting us are doing so not because we asked you a thousand times via email and social media but because you valued the work we do and see the impact we are making for communities.

Here are some metrics for this upcoming program that we thought you might find of interest. If after reading this you think you can help us we would welcome your support. We have added action items at the end of this blog article with exactly how you can help the success of our Code-A-Thon this year.

For awareness our organization is 100% volunteers, yes, 100%. We do not pay salaries with the funds you donate to us, you can view our 990 form on Guidestar (Our EIN number is 46-3412001).

Each year when students register for our programs we collect information that helps us shape the program outcomes and manage our metrics for success. Success is defined by these variables and our pre and post assessments from participants. Each of the metrics that follow is from our currently registered population of students for the 2019 Code-A-Thon, of which the registration has one week left before closing. The information is high-level and our organization follows GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations.)

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Current Grade Levels of Participants

The blend of age groups for the program is a big factor for our success.  The students have a greater likelihood of a positive experience when you have a blend of ages, this results in students stepping up to lead, younger students motivated and inspired by their peers, older students teaching younger students, and younger students teaching older students who are new to coding. It is by far my favorite outcome of the program and yet we do little in efforts to gain this result in our marketing to participants. It sort of happens organically. Just as our gender stats result in these amazing organic outcomes as seen from our current ratio of female to males.

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The gender ratio is almost equal.

Each year we see similar outcomes with our gender ratio, and in most cases the number of female is greater than male. We still have another week of registration so things can change.

Increasing diversity in STEM where it is needed most.

Increasing diversity in STEM where it is needed most.

Each of our Code-A-Thon locations are selected based on our ability to create the most impact for underrepresented communities in STEAM/STEM. By increasing diversity we help support sustainable lifestyles for those that would not have the opportunity, and for those communities where programs like ours are rare and difficult for students to experience.

Creating systemic change occurs when students can experience first hand the value of their education and make real investments in their own future. Our programs shape new mindsets, provide students with the value of life-long learning, and why working together to learn is so important in driving our own personal growth as well how supporting others success shapes our own success.

Learning to code is a challenging undertaking, not everyone will succeed in that path long term. What they will learn is the importance of failure and how it shapes our ability to think computationally, and to problem solve. It is more about the experience of learning in general and how much you can push yourself when you have a group of others pushing with you.

We utilize an algorithm to blend our teams based on these variables

We utilize an algorithm to blend our teams based on these variables

As a research focused organization, we are constantly looking at patterns within our metrics to see and learn how we can create continuous improvement in our results. We have learned to fail fast and to look at each failure as an opportunity to learn. We teach that approach to our participants and help students see and feel emotionally what happens when you reflect on failure to learn from the experience and use it to drive positive change in our thinking. This program is about learning and discovery, not about already knowing and demonstrating that knowledge. We want every participant to come away with new knowledge each year, no matter how many times that they participate year over year.

Using our algorithm we create teams that are not only diverse in age and gender, but also in experience. The result creates teams that are learning together. Some will come with foundations that they gained independently, at school, or at prior programs from our organization or others. Outcomes demonstrated by students projects year over year clearly shows that our approach aligns with research surrounding diversity and its value in innovation. Most importantly our students feel that diversity is key to their own success in the program.

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What do you see in this pattern?

Each year we always have repeat participants and this year we thought we would add to the registration information a few additional questions regarding their prior experience with our program and other STEAM/STEM type programs.  This helps us get a sense of how we are doing as it relates to getting new audiences that have not had the opportunity to explore an immersive program like this.  Our goal is to pull in new students each year, and the results of our registration response tells us we are doing well with getting fresh audiences to discover coding, and our repeat participation is growing year over year.

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ACTION: How you can help continue our success:

We hope that by sharing these metrics in advance of the program that you might consider how you can support us in driving systemic change to address the digital divide. Our program is just weeks away and we need your help in the following areas prioritized in order of most important.

FOOD:

We need funds or in-kind donations of food. Each site has 50 students and we need funds or in-kind donations for 6 meals and snacks over the weekend. Coding requires energy and our brain uses over 20% of our energy source so having healthy food for the students ensures greater value in the outcomes for each participant. (To learn more about the energy required to think)

Lanyards & Badges:

Having a badge with your name on it so you can be distinguished among your peers is important. It helps us identify the teams students are assigned to and helps our mentors and our instructors with making a greater connection to participants. For security reasons it is also important for us to manage participants throughout the overall program. We are working to incorporate knowledge mastery badges that will attach to the lanyards students can earn to show knowledge mastered, funding permitted.

T-Shirts:

When you have a large group of students in a room it is helpful to distinguish between the volunteers and the students. We utilize colored T-shirts to differentiate visually, and it is our way of thanking the volunteers and mentors for their contribution. We hope to continue this model and incorporate additional colors based on alumni status for participants.

Prizes:

We do not believe in participation awards, but we do believe in motivation approaches that drive excitement for success and team work. Each year we have been lucky to provide students with amazing prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams at each site location. Some years the prizes have been more valuable than others, but overall it is about recognition and demonstrating to the students that hard work does pay off in amazing ways, and that when a team works hard together they can produce something you can be extremely proud of. We have made this our lowest priority for obvious reasons, but hope that we might have in-kind donations of technology equipment or gift cards that students can utilize .

Closing comments:

If you are reading this we hope you now have a better understanding of not only what we do, but the value our work has on communities around the nation. To become a sponsor visit our sponsor page, any donation will be appreciated and if you would like your brand on our T-Shirts this year the opportunity is still available.

To become a sponsor: SPONSOR

To make a general donation: DONATE

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey