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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .