Our organization, We Connect the Dots (WCTD) ,set out 6 years ago to challenge the norm—to create change in how we engage in teaching young adults the career opportunities in growing industries across Science, Technology, Engineering, (Digital) Arts and Math (STEAM). Our focus has been to engage with students in upper Middle School and High School, helping to create sparks of interest, and support in building the skills necessary to succeed in today’s evolving workforce. Automation and outsourcing have shifted workforce needs and standard educational institutions are struggling to keep pace. This results in students being unprepared to compete and being unaware of opportunities for successful, sometimes entirely new, career paths. Employers require resources who possess higher education and they have an expectation of greater skills when these individuals enter the workforce.

WCTD was founded to address gaps in the educational system by partnering with industry to ensure alignment with aptitudes that are necessary for entry-level career paths. We’ve created programs that support building skills in critical thinking, computational thinking, problem solving and collaboration through team building and real-world experience. If a student can’t imagine themselves in a career, they will not pursue the path to that career. Our programs impact over a thousand students each year, helping them to realize their full potential for entry into the workforce or continued education.

We help students to build an emotional connection to their future, where they are excited to learn, where they are building the foundational skills that can be utilized in any career path they take.  WCTD provides them, at no cost, with resources and experience to build modern-day and future competencies and to do so with confidence. Our work is impacting change—enabling students to benefit from experiential learning programs that empower a path to internships that eventually lead to sustainable careers.

We have self-supported our nonprofit organization to-date by establishing a for-profit company designed as a part of our overall sustainability model. Nebula Academy (Laurie Carey Consulting, LLC) was founded to create social impact to support educators in teaching the skills necessary for today’s modern workforce. Through the work we do within schools and businesses, providing coaching training, professional development surrounding project-based learning and the integration of technology skills, we have been able to fund and provide necessary resources to sustain WCTD. This component of our educational ecosystem impacts thousands of students each year and helps teachers of the next generation of professionals to build sustainable skills for their students (both in primary and higher education and corporate learning) to lead to successful careers.

It is critical for business leaders to invest in our youth—in programs that enable current and future generations to build tangibly sustainable careers. Without the support of businesses, our work force will not maintain pace in knowing the technologies used in business today. A confident, highly-skilled workforce will lead to a more powerful, innovative future for industry, and to greater value for the individuals themselves and for businesses overall.

Innovation continues to disrupt our society in positive ways, enabling new ways to work and learn. However, the cost associated with engaging these new innovative education models continues to create gaps between communities that can afford to learn new skills and technologies and those that cannot. We choose to lead the change necessary to address the gap through rethinking how we might solve these complex problems. Through our research and partnership with industry, we help communities to better understand emerging and evolving career paths and the skills necessary to compete in a globally connected workforce.

BuildingSTEAM.png
 

Our upcoming Building STEAM Benefit is our opportunity to thank those that have supported us over the past 6 years. It is a forum to bring awareness to the importance of our mission, the value those that experience our programs gain, the value to the volunteers that engage with us, and the outcomes for our strategic industry partners.

Join us on July 12th as we re-introduce to you We Connect The Dots, at our new STEAM Research & Education Center in Syosset, NY. To learn more about the event and the work we are doing to impact communities, please visit our website at https://www.we-connect-the-dots.org/buildingsteambenefit.

Goldticketv12.png
Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey
cXrLLWg_.jpeg
aZ8ESA-8-1.jpg

The Discovery Day event held at the Microsoft office in the city marked my first event at We Connect The Dots that I was fortunate enough to both plan and attend. After interviewing for my position as a Community Ambassador and attending the International Women’s Meeting at Microsoft, I was ready for my first task in this position. Although planning an event is not the easiest task for ones first experience in the workforce, Laurie instructed me throughout the entire process.

The opportunity to interact with others and gain experience with various Microsoft programs has been paramount towards my intellectual development. Registering the schools in at the front desk, helping the students with the drones, leading the industry panel and touring the students through the building are only some of the highlights of this day. In fact, leading the industry panel and listening to the advice of the Microsoft workers has given me, as well as many of the other students, a greater insight into my future and what I would like to pursue.

Watching the students cooperate with others while learning through the enjoyable activities we planned was a sensational feeling to know the hard work to plan was put to good use.

The interactions and experiences I had at this event made the time I dedicated towards planning it more than worthwhile. Reflecting back on the day, I remain incredibly grateful to all who attended the event and shared new and fascinating ideas.

Posted
AuthorBarrett Kanfer

A June 13, article, by Gregory Zeller, in Innovate Long Island, entitled, "New home, new partners for ambitious STEAM startup" describes that We Connect the Dots "may have found a permanent home – and has definitely identified some promising partners on its STEAM-powered mission." Zeller wrote: "The registered 501(c)3, intent on leveling the technological playing field for underprivileged students via extracurricular science, mathematics, engineering, art and math activities, is now occupying 2,500 square feet in Syosset, carved out of a larger commercial space swimming with children’s programs."

 

“It’s a really good space for us,” Zeller wrote, quoting WCTD Executive Director, Laurie Carey, “It’s kind of a destination location for parents seeking new and interesting programs for their kids." The article also announces that the new facility will encompass "the Nebula Academy, WCTD’s for-profit arm," describing that Nebula, "focuses on teaching 18-and-older college students and transitioning professionals the ins and outs of Amazon Web Services." Zeller quoted Laurie Carey again, who stated that the skills obtained by students of the for-profit organization can see increases in, "their annual salary potential by as much as $30,000," and, “'paying our rent' in the new Syosset space."

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE BY CLICKING ON THE LOGO ABOVE OR ON THIS   LINK

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE BY CLICKING ON THE LOGO ABOVE OR ON THIS LINK

WCTD Benefit-July 12th

 

As part of the new initiatives surrounding the new space described in the Innovate LI article, WCTD is holding a "Building STEAM Benefit”. We will be sharing images of the plans for the new space, and an opportunity to experience the professional development programs that will be offered in the center, as well as membership opportunities. The evening will provide participants fun educational activities as they explore mixed reality with the HoloLens. Experience what the new center will look like when construction is completed this fall, through a Virtual Reality tour with Oculus Rift.

 

We hope you will support our mission and be a part of the event on July 12th.

[PURCHASE A TICKET TO OUR EVENT]  

CONTACT US

[CONTACT BUTTON]  

Please CLICK ON THIS LINK  or on the button above to complete our brief form and contact a member of our team. We would be happy to answer any questions about the upcoming event, about the new facilities, and about all of WCTD’s and the Nebula Academy’s exciting learning opportunities and strategic alliances.

 

Posted
AuthorBen Fox
IMG_4604 (2).jpg

Microsoft NYC Women’s Leadership Conference 2019

As I began my early morning trek to the Great Neck train station on a cold morning, I had yet the slightest clue of what the coming seven hours would have in store for me. While I had been accepted to the community ambassador program and spoken to Laurie on the phone prior to this morning, this would be my first time meeting her and some of the other members of her team in person. The prospect of today excited me, but I also felt a sense of nervousness surrounding my first day as a community ambassador. I believed that the Microsoft NYC Women’s Leadership Conference would represent a fantastic opportunity to surround with a number of accomplished, brave, and gifted women. I feared that these women might have little time for a high school sophomore like myself. Fortunately, my first proved itself to be undoubtedly accurate, while the latter did not.

IMG_4610.jpg

From the moment I walked through the glass doors on 46th Street, off of 6th Avenue, I was simultaneously blown away by the hundreds of brilliant women and I was heart warmed by how welcomed each woman that I came across made sure I felt. Just a 16-year-old high school student in a room full of professionals, I was made to feel as if I truly belonged. I listened with awe to a galvanizing speech by Sophia Nelson about female empowerment that tracked from her book, The Woman Code, and an uplifting address by World Champion Julie Chu detailing her experiences as a four-time member of the United States Olympic women’s ice hockey team. I felt incredibly moved and motivated. As Julie Chu stated in her powerful talk, it should not be considered strange or unusual to see a woman working or succeeding anywhere, whether it’s in the tech industry or the hockey rink. She emphasized the importance of asking questions and working hard, regardless of how confused or nervous you may feel as you walk into an unfamiliar or overwhelming environment. Julie Chu’s message, in particular, hit home for me, as I strove to balance the jitters that came from entering this unfamiliar environment with the opportunity for experience and knowledge that came along with it. Not only was I able to experience these uplifting speeches, but I was also given the opportunity to introduce myself to impressive women and even get my own professional headshots taken. As I waited in line for my headshot, I began talking to the woman in front of me. In fact, from long conversations both before and after our photos were taken, I learned that this woman is straight out of college and currently holds the position as the marketing manager of the Microsoft Azure product. As I left to say goodbye, we exchanged numbers and she notified me that I should contact her at anytime for any advice or help on my journey. At that moment, I felt what the future had in store for me, and it felt good.

IMG_4605.jpg

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.

IMG_0845.JPG
IMG_0803.JPG

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.

IMG_0851.JPG

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.)

Grade levels.png

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.

gender.png

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.

prior years.png

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.

repeat programs.png

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

2018 Back-To-School Code-A-Thon

This year's program was exciting, exhausting, and just all out fun.  Each year we challenge students to get out of their comfort zone by meeting new students, learning to work as a team, and solve global problems.  These are the same requests business owners today ask of their newly hired employees.  The Code-A-Thon program provides students an opportunity to explore real-world problems and gain an understanding of what life is like to work in a diverse team that must first learn together and then demonstrate their new-found skills as a team to solve a problem that they have determined will have global impact to society.

Fellowship image.png

Individually Strong, Collectively Powerful
We Connect Students, Teachers, Parents and Industry Experts to Create Amazing Learning Experiences

 

For many students participating in the program, coding is an entirely new and very foreign concept, one that they are confused about and in many cases, may have misconceptions of what life is like to code.  After 48 hours what was once foreign is now better understood and it is clear that coding is challenging, yet provides an amazing opportunity to solve real-world problems. For those first year students they still have a lot to learn, but they now know how to continue learning, what resources are available to them, and they value their team mates talents and skills that supported not only their success but the success of the entire team.

DSC03678.JPG

Coding Teaches..

Problem solving, critical thinking, and synthesizing information.

Running a 48 hour Code-A-Thon is a challenge but it is so worth it.  This year two young engineers from Sandusky County OH decided to take on the challenge to disrupt the norm and show their community that by coming together they can provide their students an immersive learning experience.

"The Code-a-thon is a wonderful experience for both students and volunteers.  Yes, the students learned about a semester's worth of knowledge on how to program computers all within a 48 hour period, but they were also able to go out of their comfort zone and learn many other skills that are essential to today's work environment." said Doug Steinberger co-site lead for Sandusky County Code-A-Thon.

"The Code-a-thon is a wonderful experience for both students and volunteers.  Yes, the students learned about a semester's worth of knowledge on how to program computers all within a 48 hour period, but they were also able to go out of their comfort zone and learn many other skills that are essential to today's work environment." said Doug Steinberger co-site lead for Sandusky County Code-A-Thon.

"The Sandusky County, Ohio Code-a-Thon was hands-down a first-year success. Myself (a civil engineer) and the other site lead, Doug Steinberger (a biomedical engineer), share a passion of giving back to our hometown through STEAM promotion for youth. The Code a Thon event was a perfect fit for our mission. I was so impressed by the teens who showed up and shared their excitement and thirst for technical knowledge. When we first advertised the Code a Thon event to Sandusky County, it seemed so unlikely that we would get enough students interested, especially girls. In the end, we had 75% girls participation locally. Our sponsors were equally excited to meet with the teens and explain their need for local technical workers. Our local college even offered an extra incentive beyond the corporate prizes. The teens’ final projects blew me away—I had witnessed the time and effort it took for each participant, and during their presentations I got a bit emotional. The teens gained so much practical knowledge and experience in one short weekend."  said Elizabeth Royster co-site lead for Sandusky County Code-A-Thon.

"The Sandusky County, Ohio Code-a-Thon was hands-down a first-year success. Myself (a civil engineer) and the other site lead, Doug Steinberger (a biomedical engineer), share a passion of giving back to our hometown through STEAM promotion for youth. The Code a Thon event was a perfect fit for our mission. I was so impressed by the teens who showed up and shared their excitement and thirst for technical knowledge. When we first advertised the Code a Thon event to Sandusky County, it seemed so unlikely that we would get enough students interested, especially girls. In the end, we had 75% girls participation locally. Our sponsors were equally excited to meet with the teens and explain their need for local technical workers. Our local college even offered an extra incentive beyond the corporate prizes. The teens’ final projects blew me away—I had witnessed the time and effort it took for each participant, and during their presentations I got a bit emotional. The teens gained so much practical knowledge and experience in one short weekend."  said Elizabeth Royster co-site lead for Sandusky County Code-A-Thon.

IMG_0285.JPG

In order to support new host locations, we developed a scaling model to build capacity and offer our Community Ambassador Program (CAP) a leadership model for students to work towards.  Learning to teach is transformative. Anyone who has experienced having to learn content deeply so that you can help others understand through teaching knows this sense of reward well. This year we were able to provide the leadership opportunity to Vincent Occhiogrosso a Senior CAP student.  Vincent, who is now a freshman at Farmingdale University has been teaching and supporting our programs since his junior year in high school. This year Vincent supported Sandusky County and the team of volunteers to run their first Code-A-Thon. Other CAP students like Raffi Sanna, a Junior at Cold Spring Harbor High School,  was preparing for that same opportunity by teaching in our programs locally here in Long Island and in New York City. Raffi not only taught the first-year students in Westbury, but he helped shape the content that was utilized across all the Code-A-Thon sites this year.  Our CAP students are students looking for the opportunity to be challenged and to challenge themselves through these leadership experiences.   As our Community Ambassador Program grows in locations like PA, DC, OH and in NY Metro, our ability to support more communities becomes possible.

DSC_2181.JPG

In their third year working with WCTD the Darby, PA Community now has its own Community Ambassador Program, thanks in part to the support of the Pennwood Foundation.  We visited Darby this past December to train the CAP students on our Unlock the Box activity so that they could lead the activity during the Code-A-Thon this year. Not only does the CAP create leadership opportunities, it supports communities to bring programs that would otherwise not be available, disrupting the digital divide across communities.

IMG_0646.jpg

The Code-A-Thon is a community program. Our volunteers come from the local businesses looking to build a pipeline of future employees, local government supporting economic impact through workforce development, educators from surrounding schools seeking to learn and bring the knowledge back to their classrooms, parents who have seen the transformation in their child giving back to support our success, industry experts volunteering their entire weekend to teach and share their career experiences with students. Thank you to all our volunteers especially to Allison Bloom a volunteer who has been with us from the very beginning, who leads our Volunteer Management and is the first person volunteers hear from.  Without the support of our volunteers we would not be able to provide this program to students at no cost. 

DSC_2032.JPG

Thanks to the generosity of Insightour main sponsor of the Code-A-Thon this year, we were able to provide T-Shirts to the students and volunteers.  In seeking a company to work with to produce the T-Shirts we partnered with Spectrum Designs  for the Code-A-Thon. Spectrum provides gainful employment and meaningful work opportunities to individuals with autism within a social enterprise; in an effort to assist them in leading fuller, independent and productive lives. Spectrum is the ideal place for teenagers and young adults with autism to address possible employment barriers for the future.  Many students who participate in our programs are on the Autism spectrum, and we know first-hand how transforming learning to code can be for an Autistic student. We look forward to continuing to work with the Spectrum Design team.

DSC_1840.JPG

Our Industry Advisors: Meet the entire team

Thank you to John Wargo from Microsoft, Kerri Shotts from Adobe, Don Coleman from Chariot Solutions, and Chris Gomez from Medicity for giving so much time over the past year planning for the Code-A-Thon and shaping this year's curriculum for both our first years’ and our advanced web development for our alumni students. Our industry advisors are critical to our success and our ability to ensure what we are teaching can transcend into value for our students long term. Our goal is to spark an interest, and shape strong foundational skills that students can build upon to continue to learn either on their own, or through continued education in high school, college, and beyond.

DSC_2827.JPG

Thank you to our sponsors who supported feeding our students, providing t-shirts for the students and volunteers, prizes for the winning teams and transportation and supplies to support our host sites.  This program would not be possible without your investment and trust in our organization.

Our partnerships with industry, government and education are key to how we work together to transform education and ensure that every student has the opportunity to experience programs like the Code-A-Thon. We would like to thank the government organizations that game together to work with us this year, who supported the kick off and final presentations, as well as delivered presentations. Thank you to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, and Legislator Siela A. Bynoe for your support of our mission.  Thank you to Princess Young from the Department of Homeland Security for sharing with the students valuable information regarding free education and career opportunities in Cybersecurity.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman

A big shout out to this year's judges who came out on a Sunday afternoon to be a part of the program, volunteering their time to provide valuable feedback to the teams. Their role is the hardest role in the program, to make the difficult decision on the top three teams. Every student who participated came away with incredible value in the learning experience and investing in themselves for their future.

Check out this years projects  Winning Teams   

Check out this years projects Winning Teams  

Finally, a big thank you to my team, Maria Catenacci, Michael Teal, Allison Bloom, Maureen Sanchez, Jenny Adames, Cathy Monacella, Brigitte Apostolakos, Vincent Ochiogrosso, Raffi Sanna, Nicholas Paladino, Joseph Cassidy, Nate Eisenberg, Conor McCormack, and Thomas Carey.

Check out the Code-A-Thon Video Highlights, we hope you enjoy watching.  

Be a part of addressing the digital divide, DONATE to We Connect The Dots 

 

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

Reflecting on the past year

Reflection provides the opportunity to look within, to see how much you have changed, and the impact you have created.  This year stands out to have the greatest growth in volunteers we have had in our five years as an organization. Volunteers who want to be a part of transforming education, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be exposed to immersive STEAM programs. Volunteering at WCTD is more than just giving, it is also the opportunity to learn and be a part of an innovative community that works together to explore new technology, and learn together.

AdobeStock_61172025.jpeg

Learning together

To create real change, it takes people who believe change is necessary, people who are committed to investing their time to create change, people that see the change first hand not only in those that they serve but those that are fulfilling the need for change. As a fully volunteer managed organization it is important that we learn to recruit, retain, train, and manage our volunteer community. 

This past year we looked at our talent pool of volunteers to seek out a lead to help us define our processes and learn from other volunteer led organizations.  The Volunteer Management team supported us by researching best practices and helping us to shape the volunteer recruitment process. Our teams are always a blend of our CAP students and industry experts. This model provides opportunities for students to gain real-world experience with industry mentors. Together we created a methodology that met our needs to support our organizational development and to support our program operations.

AdobeStock_81889938.jpeg

Learning to fail fast when things did not always go according to plan was key to our success. After a yearlong development, adjusting when needed, we have vetted a process that is working for us. It will continue to need modifications as we grow, but the engagement model is supporting our needs to build capacity. Visit our website here http://we-connect-the-dots.org/volunteer to learn more about the volunteer opportunities, and how we support our volunteers in learning to utilize the latest productivity tools to support our organization.   

Strategic Partnerships and Measuring Impact

We have invested in alliances with many statewide organizations this year, partnerships with the NYS School Board AssociationNYS Superintendents Association, and the NYS Parent Teacher Association. Because of these partnerships we had a record number of school districts participate in our annual Discovery Day at Microsoft this past spring. Over 500 students, teachers, and school administrators came from across the state to experience a Day of Discovery at the Microsoft Office in Times Square. Our alignment with schools in economically disadvantaged communities continues to grow, this year of the 1000 students we impacted, 75% of our program participants came from these communities. With 43% of our participants young women learning about the possibilities for them in STEAM careers.

Our goal is to maintain a 50:50 gender ratio across all our programs.  Many of our programs have exceeded 50% of female participation.  Our average across all our programs this past year was 43% female to 57% male. 

Our goal is to maintain a 50:50 gender ratio across all our programs.  Many of our programs have exceeded 50% of female participation.  Our average across all our programs this past year was 43% female to 57% male. 

Diversity.png

We continue to measure our outcomes through pre- and post-assessments. This year through a partnership with Dr. Dean T. Spaulding, of Z Score Inc. we developed our DOTS STEAM Skills Inventory(DDSSI) measurement tool. Designed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. This instrument consists of both close-ended “Likert” type items to gather quantitative data, as well as open-ended items to gather depth and breadth of information from participants. Overall, the DDSSI gathers information across four subareas for participants: Persistence, STEM Career Interest, Self-Esteem, and 21st Century Skill Development.  We look forward to sharing our research results from our DDSSI tool in the first quarter of 2018. This tool will provide our organization the ability to evaluate our program impacts through research data.

AdobeStock_114998303.jpeg

IMPACT

Measuring change through research

Cybersecurity

Each year we develop new curriculum content and utilize our Discovery Day program to experiment with piloting new innovative pedagogy models. This year we introduced an additional activity to our Cybersecurity Curriculum called "Unlock The Box". This activity designed in a collaborative effort with students, teachers, and industry experts shaped a fun learning experience to teach digital literacy through the awareness of cyber-attack vectors. The learning outcomes designed to support an introduction to foundations in networking, and digital citizenship, also added a blend of career information in the field of Cybersecurity.  This newly created program was delivered to over 800 students across NY State within the first 6 months.

cyber-security.jpg

Digital Literacy

This past summer "Unlock The Box" was also incorporated into our new Workforce Experience Program (WEP) delivered in partnership with Microsoft and the City of Charlotte North Carolina. In January 2018, the activity will be included in our 3rd annual Code-A-Thon. Informing students of the importance of digital citizenship and the opportunities in the field of Cybersecurity is a priority initiative for our organization. We are proud to exceed our goals this year in reaching over 1000 students, teaching key digital literacy concepts and informing students of the career opportunities that await them. We continue to align partnerships to expand our Cybersecurity programs and are excited to partner with the Department of Homeland Security this January at our 3rd annual Code-A-Thon.

Career Readiness.png

Developing Problem              Solvers

Workforce Development

Through the support of Microsoft, we continued expanding our presence in Charlotte, NC this year with the introduction of our Workforce Experience Program (WEP).  We will continue our growth in Charlotte in the summer of 2018 through the expansion of the WEP and follow with the Code-A-Thon in January of 2019. This investment in supporting Charlotte aligns with our long-term plans to build capacity in the Charlotte community through our Community Ambassador Program, creating organic growth and impact for the communities that need our support.

Video Journalist Waldo Cabrera Featured Interviews: Laurie Carey, Founder, We Connect The Dots Will Bertolotti, Manager, Community Ambassador Program Alyssa, Farmingdale High School Jibrael, Valley Stream South High School Mahan, Farmingdale High School Kaitlyn, Farmingdale High School Fatima Saleem, Community Ambassador, Adelphi University Maestro, Personal Trainer 

Coding to solve Global Challenges

As we prepare for our 3rd Annual Code-A-Thon we are excited to work with the community of Sandusky County, OH as they deliver their first Code-A-Thon in January. This new partnership is an opportunity to support the efforts of a community to bring awareness of the career opportunities in STEAM, and inform the diverse community of students how learning coding can empower positive change as well as support economic growth in manufacturing and engineering businesses. The Code-A-Thon is another example of how community engagement supports organic growth and impact for students, teachers, and the local businesses who support the program.  

pbl-blog-image.jpg

LEARNING TO CODE IS LEARNING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS

Organic Growth

Our model supports large scale impact in communities to bring awareness of the careers and the skills necessary for this next generation of our workforce. The organic growth comes from the combined efforts of the students that participate, our Community Ambassador Program (CAP), the volunteers who are leading the initiatives, and the businesses and industries that support funding of the programs.

Our CAP is expanding this year from NY Metro into PA and DC, providing the opportunity for students to collaborate across state lines for the first time as CAP participants. We are excited about this growth model. To create organic impact for these communities.  For PA, it is continued growth from our Code-A-Thon, and in DC it will be the beginning of our programs in this community.

This recipe for success continues to demonstrate what we can do together to ensure that every student can experience the careers that are in their future, and the skills needed to succeed. Our diversity model supports teaching young women what it is like to work in a diverse group to solve global problems. It teaches the value of diverse thinking in innovation, and how diversity across socioeconomic backgrounds enables us to be better problem solvers, to think critically, and work together towards a better future.

A Place to Call Home

We began 2017 with a new home in Westbury, NY at 1025 Old Country Road. Through the generosity of the building management we have been able to utilize the space to meet as an organization, build relationships, engage our volunteers, and to run our programs to support our mission. Over the next year we will be developing a state-of-the-art STREAM (science, technology, research, engineering, art, and math) Center at this location.

Our vision is to provide a cutting-edge resource center, with a digital lab environment, industry- leading technology for students and teachers throughout Long Island to experience. A center where you can experience STEAM workshops, the latest in professional development, providing a showcase for education and learning experiences that many school districts would not normally be able to provide.

To create long term change we must create parity between industry innovation and education needs for every child and every teacher. We must reduce spending and consolidate resources without sacrificing those that need it most. This center is an opportunity to create a model to replicate and bring about the change in education that is necessary to ensure we have greater diversity within STEAM careers, diversity not only in gender but in socioeconomic balances.

How can you be a part of the positive change?

We are an organization that has been primarily self-funded for the past 5 years.  We have maintained growth through the generous support of our industry partners, volunteers, and our sister organization Laurie Carey Consulting, LLC. Our sustainability model has served us well over the past 5 years.   We have impacted well over 1000 student’s year after year and growing, exceeding 5000 students in just 5 years, impacting communities in NY, NJ, PA, NC, OH, and DC.

Our organic growth model has demonstrated that we can build momentum in rural communities where exposure to the programs we offer is limited or nonexistent. Like any startup business we need investors to help us continue to create positive change to prepare the next generation to sustain in the careers of tomorrow. Be a part of our continued success by making a donationsponsoring our programs, or volunteering to mentor or support us operationally.  

Funding Outreach

We are a lean highly efficient organization that runs our organization through technology productivity tools that enable us to do more through a volunteer team.  A team that works full time jobs, or are students in High School and Universities. We place 100% of our funds into our programs, programs that are free to every student.  The only requirement to participate is the passion to want to learn and empower their own success. As we expand we are in need of developing a leadership model, one that can support our growth while ensuring our mission to empower and impact communities continues.

Kathy Bunce Fellowship – Executive Director Leadership Role

In 2018 we are seeking funding sources to expand and create a pipeline of leaders through a Fellowship program.  We are seeking funding to support a three term Fellowship pilot that supports a leadership opportunity for a graduate student studying in a field related to philanthropy leadership. This fellowship will provide an individual, leadership training, grant and funding training, with goals aligned to support WCTD over a 2-year commitment, providing a stipend for a half time contracted position. 

Fellowship image.png

Building Capacity

To Lead

This six-year pilot will create a repeatable leadership model, developing strong talent in the philanthropic community.  Building a strong leadership pipeline that will help to drive our organization to reach our goals, at the same time develop leaders in philanthropy that can support other organizations like ours.  Over time we believe this will transition into a fulltime 2-year term and even grow to multiple fellowships happening concurrently as the organization grows.

AdobeStock_105932456.jpeg

This is an exciting opportunity to transform education.

STREAM Center 

Help be a part of shaping our future and the building of our STREAM Center space in Westbury, NY. This is an opportunity to be a part of investing in a model that will be replicated in communities across the nation. You can support this effort through donations, volunteering to design the space through our STREAM Center Advisory Board, or becoming a member as an Industry Partner, Education Member, or Individual Member.  To learn more, visit our STREAM Center information page where you can download the membership model draft documents.

ss DSC_8699.JPG

Thank you to our Volunteers and our Sponsors