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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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 


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.


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.


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. 


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.



Measuring change through research


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.


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.

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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.  



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. 

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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.


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.

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Thank you to our Volunteers and our Sponsors

Four years ago, CreatingSTEAM was a concept and an experiment. We knew education had to change. Could education evolve to a new form of meaningful student engagement and exploration? Our hypothesis was that through immersive hands- on project- based experiential learning, education could motivate, inspire, and transform students into independent life-long learners.

Every parent and every teacher's hope is that their child will be successful. Would their child be prepared to enter the world? Here’s what we saw: a generation that uses technology in their everyday lives, while having no understanding of how such technology works.  A generation unaware of the engineering, and computer science that is involved in everyday items they use, including their own cell phones, laptops, or computers. How could this situation be possible? What could we do to raise a generation of successful individuals? A key motivation for our organization was our belief that success is not given by parents or teachers but instead comes from within – that success is a mindset. We looked at classrooms and schools throughout the country and we felt it was time for education to leave behind traditional teaching pedagogies and shift to a new mindset where teachers facilitated learning, and students were empowered with the tools and resources to shape their own futures.

Students would work collaboratively with their peers, while being educated on leveraging 21st century technologies as resources for knowledge.  Our metrics would be simple: did the students enjoy the experience, did we leave them wanting more, and did our approach inspire and motivate them to seek new understandings? Or bluntly, did we empower? Did we inspire? Did we show that success is a path open to all?

With our mission and our hypothesis, we proceeded to redefine the classroom. First, we would redefine "curriculum" by weaving together the unique disciplines of neuroscience research led by Dweck, Lieberman, and Duckworth. Their research served as the foundation for all our activities and experiences. We would redefine "teaching." Our teachers would be coaches, supporting students using a new "pedagogy" of guiding students through how their brain processes information and how their brains were their ultimate tool for success. In this new curriculum, students would learn: 

  • how neurochemicals like dopamine, and norepinephrine support the hippocampus for long term memory.
  • how emotions play a part of our ability to learn and retain information. 
  • how to promote high performance in learning to obtain a greater success, and
  • how to build self-motivation, drive, and grit. 

The outcome would be a growth-mindset with perseverance, tenacity, and drive.

We got to work and four years later, our work continues. We provide students a living lab in which they can “open the hood of the car,” take a look inside, and to really understand and appreciate how the technology they take for granted actually works. Most of our students have seen a PC but few have built a computer from an empty metal case to a functioning gaming PC. This activity alone showed them how their efforts and learning could yield rewards both tangibly personal and occupationally promising.

We learn from our students, addressing their interests and aspirations as opportunities to engage them in learning. For instance, thirty years ago many students with a passion for the Arts (be it drawing, music, or theater) would have been discouraged by adults from pursuing their passion as a profession.  Even today, such students may be convinced by a parent, teacher or other influence in their life that the arts do not offer financial stability. We beg to differ – creativity and innovation drives the arts and these same skills shape our economic future. We expose our students to web-design and marketing, 3D animation, augmented reality, and mixed reality. We show our students how their mobile devices blend Art, Technology, Engineering, Science and Math into one beautiful piece of engineering at its best. CreatingSTEAM shows parents that art has a crucial place in the digital world and most importantly, educates students with artistic interests that they can thrive in the 21st century economy.

As a research organization we want to model for our students the value of constant learning and innovation. Through our research into emerging best practices, we continue to rethink, redesign, and reshape our educational programs. Two years ago we identified cyber-security as a crucial emerging skill and as a result, we introduced a novel two- hour activity to CreatingSTEAM which teaches digital citizenship while raising awareness to the fastest growing career opportunity in information technology. First introduced in our Discovery Day program this past spring, where over 500 students participated in our "Unlock The Box", this cyber-security experience took place in our online Yammer community where students engaged in a scavenger hunt to solve clues related to cyber-security. The students worked in teams to unlock four locks, each lock was tied to a scenario around teaching students about Attack Vectors, and the importance of good digital citizenship. With applications in law enforcement, defense, and business, our students gained an invaluable exposure to an exciting new field.

Designed as a journey through science and entrepreneurship, CreatingSTEAM challenges young adults to stretch outside their comfort zone, and motivates them to see the value of life-long learning. While our metrics reflect diversity in gender and ethnicity, and increases in interests in the sciences, there is nothing as valuable as the voice of our students. What is most illuminating and meaningful to us are the testimonialsof our students.

  • "Today was awesome, I had a very nice time meeting new people. I found out I had a lot in common with many people, which is rare. Brainstorming with my team was very fun. Together, we came up with many innovative ideas."
  • “Building a PC was interesting and fun and I will definitely think about using that in a future career."
  • "I enjoyed learning how to use WordPress and will definitely use it in the future."
  • "I really enjoyed the speakers we had today, they were charismatic and informative.  Speakers like that really help me get a better insight into what I want to do in my future."

Did the students enjoy the experience, did we leave them wanting more, and did our approach inspire and motivate them to seek a greater understanding of what we taught them? From our own eyes, and in their own words, the answer for this year’s CreatingSTEAM was a resounding yes. Our experiment has and will continue to deliver on its central motto: that individually we are strong, collectively we are powerful. Look at what we can accomplish when industry and education leverages its resources and efforts for the benefit of our children. As we enter our fifth year, our organization will continue to connect students, teachers, parents and industry experts to create amazing learning experiences.

AuthorLaurie Carey

Week One of Creating S.T.E.A.M. 2017!

We wanted to provide you and update on the CreatingSTEAM program and our first week summary. Week one was a big success, students arrive by bus each day from Long Island to the Microsoft facility in Times Square NYC.  The students join with other students from the NY Metro area, coming in from NJ and the NYC communities.

Week One provided an immersive learning experience to set the students up for success as they lead into week two of project development. Students have experienced learning to code, building websites, building PCs, team collaboration through competitive gamified learning, integration of coding with robotics, learning to utilize Microsoft Office 365, mastering Windows 10, learning Linux command line coding to script a humanoid robot to stand, and so much more. Each day ends with reflection about their learning and providing feedback to our team and their mentors.  They utilize digital tools to reflect through either a mind map or through Microsoft OneNote, and conclude the day with guest speakers during our career panel discussions.

Students are building awareness and confidence in their knowledge of career paths in STEAM and the skills necessary to compete for roles. This is an entrepreneur experience that helps students discover their strengths and challenge them to stretch outside their comfort zone to learn. Failure is a key factor for their success in this program, as we push them beyond their limits to demonstrate when learning occurs. We teach the importance of failure as a part of the learning program and they see firsthand the emotion that is created when you solve a problem and learn through failure.

Every program we deliver is designed with teams of students who are intentionally diverse across age, gender, as well as social economic backgrounds.  This program is no different, and you can see from the images just how diverse the groups are.  We know through research as well as our own experience how powerful having diverse teams can be.  We see the results directly in the innovative projects that the students produce.  

Here are a couple of quotes from students participating as well as from a teacher who is volunteering for the full 10 days as a mentor/coach.  The feedback comes in each day so I thought it would be helpful to see the progression of the feedback.  The students also take an assessment before and after the program, as a research organization it is critical to evaluate the students experience prior, during, and post the program.

Student feedback – Day 1-5

"Today was awesome, I had a very nice time meeting new people. I found out I had a lot in common with many people, which is rare. Brainstorming with my team was very fun. Together, we came up with many innovative ideas. I look forward to the next 9 days."

"Today was really fun because I had never done coding before, so it was really cool. I really enjoyed learning how to program using Visual Studio Code."

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"Today was an amazing experience that challenged the brain greatly. Especially the sphere project tired everyone out mentally. Building a PC was interesting and fun and I will definitely think about using that in a future career. "

"I enjoyed learning how to use WordPress and will definitely use it in the future. The bridge building exercise was fun and it taught me a lot about architecture and collaboration. "

"I really enjoyed the speakers we had today, they were charismatic and informative.  Speakers like that really help me get a better insight into what I want to do in my future."

Teacher feedback: Mentor/Coach Training Day 1

 "I had a very vague understanding about this program prior to today (what it stood for and what it offered, aside from the knowledge that it was project-based and STEM-based). I greatly enjoyed the fact that mentor exposure to the details of the program was directed by a true appreciation for independent learning. The push to "disrupt" education and the student-centric model is refreshing, inspiring and wonderfully applicable to the classroom ( a setting that is too often wrought with uninspired "teaching to the test" expectations). Although teachers try to combat this with creative approaches, there is fear at the notion of a complete overhaul (even when its sensed that is what students and the climate need). I love the building block projects that are both approachable and fun, as well as the tools we've been exposed to and taught to operate. The creators of this program believe in it, because they are motivated by "social goodness" (and have seen exceptional participant results that only further drive the cause), which they have modeled for their students in like . Thank you!"

Link to view all the images from week one


We need your help. How can you support our efforts?

Judges: We are seeking judges for our final day 7/28 to judge the student projects.  The time commitment is from 1-4pm, students will begin presenting at 1:30 pm and wrap at 3:30 pm.  We announce the winners just before 4 pm and close out the program by 4 pm. We ask judges to arrive by 1:00 to begin viewing the students projects and prepare of the presentations.  This is an incredible opportunity to see firsthand the impact this program has on students. If you know of someone interested please have them reach out to us at events@we-connect-the-dots.org.

Team Prizes: We are seeking donations for our first - third place team prizes. The students work hard to develop their projects in many cases working outside of the program hours collaborating virtually as a team.  We would like to acknowledge their efforts through small prizes that help to recognize and inspire them to continue learning.  If you or someone you know can support us through a direct donation please go to http://we-connect-the-dots.org/donate/ 

To learn more about this program and our organization please visit our social media sites.

See the live videos from the week- visit our Facebook page - Please like our page


Learn more about our organization -Youtube channel


Thank you to our volunteers, Mentors/Coaches, Guest Speakers and our Host Microsoft for supporting our organization.

Program Sponsored by:

AuthorLaurie Carey


2016, in our fourth year as an organization, WCTD celebrated our first official CAP Alumni student, Luis Tolosa.  

Luis teaching students Unity3D during WCTD CreatingIDEAS program in 2015.

Luis teaching students Unity3D during WCTD CreatingIDEAS program in 2015.

Luis came to us through a referral from another Long Island not for profit organization, who shared with him the opportunity to be a part of our student program. He was the second student to be invited to shape what is today our Community Ambassador Program. He was immersed in technology and leadership experiences beginning on a trip to Philadelphia, where Luis lead a program teaching 100 plus students how to design video games using XboxOne. This once shy student quickly demonstrated that he was a natural at teaching. Luis progressed from student to mentor and developed speaking and presentation skills as he facilitated panels and classes representing WCTD.  

Luis teaching Unity3D during WCTD CreatingIDEAS program in 2017.

Luis teaching Unity3D during WCTD CreatingIDEAS program in 2017.

This young student from Westbury School District came to us with an uncovered passion to learn and to give back to communities through volunteering and empowering other students. Over the past four years, Luis has donated hundreds of hours each year supporting WCTD.  He has designed curriculum, represented the organization at numerous programs, including ringing the bell to open the stock exchange in NYC alongside MSFT. He has taught students how to code, build PC's, design video games using Unity3D, and mentored students as a team lead at our annual CreatingSTEAM program. He has earned the highest honor from our organization to commit to our CAP program throughout his college years and is now a CAP Alumni, our very first to complete the CAP program from High School through College. Luis exemplifies the meaning of a Community Ambassador and we are honored as an organization to have him as our first CAP Alumni.

Near the end of his senior year of high school, Luis reached a milestone: he was accepted to college with a full scholarship to Columbia University. He would be the first to attend college from his family who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador. Luis graduated from Columbia University in May of 2016 with a degree in Computer Science. He now works as a software developer for a small startup company in his local community in Nassau County, NY. Luis was invited to speak as an honored alumnus to his high school's graduation. Luis continues to "pay it forward" as an Instructor and facilitator for We Connect the Dots, where he inspires students to discover their passion.  

Luis teaching PC Building in 2015

Luis teaching PC Building in 2015

Luis's trajectory from "inquiring student to mentor" represents the WCTD theory of change. WCTD aims to offer opportunity to underprivileged students and to students who cannot make a school to career connection on their own by partnering them with industry experts to mentor and immerse them in STEAM career related experiences. Afterwards, WCTD aims to develop those students to be able to share STEAM content, to choose an area in a STEAM/STEM field, and to commit to a path toward a career in innovation.

Community Ambassadors meet Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in 2016

Community Ambassadors meet Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in 2016

It is hoped that like Luis, more students will pay it forward and commit to a community of their choosing; to mentor, network, and share social capital. To facilitate that WCTD continues to work towards creating environments and opportunities for it to happen . WCTD is able to do so as a result of the work of LC Consulting, LLC, a for profit entity that works directly with schools, school districts, teachers and parents delivering programs, curriculum and professional development. A portion of its proceeds are used to support the opportunities that Luis and many others continue to be a part of.

Join us this fall at are our first annual Gala to celebrate STEAM education, where we will recognize Luis for his contribution as a WCTD Community Ambassador. Join our mailing list to stay informed regarding registration for this exciting first of its kind Gamified Gala in Westbury.

AuthorLaurie Carey

As I reflect on 2016, I would like to share with our community our organizational changes, our growth, and a look ahead into 2017. Instead of creating one long blog post that would be difficult for most busy people to find the time to consume, I will be posting a series of short blogs to ensure that each update gets the attention it deserves. I hope you find it informative and valuable. 

Organizational Changes

In 2016 we began to develop a more formalized structure to our Community Ambassador Program (CAP). In order to scale this program nationally it was important to design the protocol that would shape the future of the program. Led by our program manager Stephen Sobierajski, this program first took shape in 2013. Over the past four years, the CAP has supported students in gaining workforce experience and 21st century workforce skills.  Stephen shaped the program to ensure students gained the opportunity to be a part of the program development and design of what it is today. A program that enables students to be a part of running the WCTD organization and to gain real world work experience. Teaching students entrepreneurship and building their communications skills both in person and across digital platforms, through collaboration with our teams around the world. Stephen developed playbooks for not only the CAP, but for every program we deliver today. His efforts have provided our organization with the guidance needed to scale and support successful programs across the NY Metro, Darby, Pennsylvania and as far away as Australia. With his leadership, his strong work ethic, and passion for empowering students, Stephen designed the model for our CAP program and the Program Manager role. 

With Stephen as our Program Manager, the organization leaped forward and impacted students around the world. His leadership and drive provided the opportunity for me to build our for profit model to support our long term sustainability model. The foundation of the organization is stronger as a result of Stephen's hard work and passion for creating an impact for students.  

This short video of Stephen sharing why he enjoys working with We Connect The Dots really demonstrates his passion and drive to make a difference for students by supporting their success. 

Stephen moved on to an exciting new role in the fall of 2016. The move provided him the opportunity to be closer to home and to be a part of shaping a global program. I want to take this opportunity to thank Stephen for his contributions to our success, from all of us at WCTD, we miss you and wish you continued success. 

AuthorLaurie Carey

I recently had the pleasure of delivering a youth Robotics program, and I was inspired by two young female participants in particular.  A 14 year-old middle school student and a college student, whom is aspiring to become a math teacher, worked together as a team for five days to learn about Robotics.  What I observed during their time together was a strong interest in learning and their ability to overcome obstacles to reach their goals.  They came each day looking forward to one project in particular, which involved building a Robotic Arm using servos, brackets, an Arduino board, and lots of inputs/outputs and wires.  The task at hand involved following a detailed instruction set and later testing their finished product by using Arduino IDE software with the Robotic Arm to engage the servos and maneuver the Arm.

What I observed brought me back to a time in my career when I worked on a manufacturing assembly line - building printed circuit boards and electronic components.  I was 18 years old, and the assembly line crew of over 60 people was predominately female.  I was the youngest and least experienced on the line, but I loved working with schematics and building the assembly kits that I was tasked with.  That job is what created my interest in the technology industry and is what spiraled me into my career of over 30 years. As I watched these two young women, I saw and felt what I had experienced on the assembly line…the energy and excitement of building something with your own hands and then watching it come to life. The feeling of accomplishment expressed by both young women could be seen and felt by everyone in the room.

The science behind all of the energy created lies in the neurochemicals that were generated and how that impacts the brain over time. Those neurochemicals are what motivate a student to learn more and build the confidence in their own abilities to stretch outside of their comfort zone and build on that learning.  This one program, and how it enabled a 14 year-old young woman to foresee what might be possible for her future and how much fun being challenged can be is powerful. Even after multiple failures, she persevered in order to experience the sense of accomplishment in shaping something with her own hands.  With each of her failures, I watched the frustration on her face, the anxiety of realizing where she went wrong, and the emotion of what it felt like to repeat her mistakes.  The realization of how those mistakes created a stronger understanding of what she was creating and how it all worked was her “ah ha” moment.  Without each of those failures, the entire project would have had a very different end result.

Having this opportunity to be “in the moment” with this small group of students, it helped me validate what I already knew.  When we create learning experiences, we need to engage all of our senses and allow for the ability to fail again and again.  However, we need to be sure we explain the value of failure and that we also create the motivation to continue towards success.

When students engage in learning experiences where there is autonomy to explore and where the learning process is facilitated, what you see and feel not only energizes the students but the facilitator as well. Facilitating, as opposed to traditional teaching models, can run counter to what we are accustomed to and feel comfortable with in a classroom. That bias is extremely difficult to change; not until we experience the difference between teaching and facilitating and understand the science behind when it is more appropriate to facilitate versus teach can we develop new approaches that create greater value long term.  This transformation in our own thinking is called neuroplasticity, and in todays' disruptive world where knowledge is expanding at such a rapid rate the teacher becomes a student and in many cases the student becomes the teacher. Embracing this new world requires everyone to learn together and to allow students to be a part of the learning process.

It is important for educators to have a basic understanding of how and why people learn, and knowledge of brain-based learning can help us more effectively facilitate student learning. By creating active learning experiences for our students, we create classroom environments with the right recipe for learning and long-term retention and growth.

With the right recipe for learning through the understanding of neuroscience, we can inspire many young women to engage in STEAM careers. Through that effort we need to ensure that our future teachers have the same opportunities to experience the possibilities, and to bring that energy into our classrooms.

You can be a part of shaping the next generation of women in STEAM, creating that "ah ha" moment for more students by supporting We Connect The Dots. Our programs place students at the center of the learning experience, driving their own outcomes and learning together. To learn more about the Robotics program and how you can help be a part of the change visit http://we-connect-the-dots.org

To learn how Laurie Carey Consulting, LLC supports We Connect The Dots, Inc. through Robotics training programs for schools and STEAM Learning Kits visit http://LaurieCarey.com/STEAM-Learning-Kits


Doyle, T. (2011b, November). The one who does the work does the learning. Symposium conducted at the Lilly Conference on College Teaching, Oxford, OH.

Flagel, S. B., Clark, J. J., Robinson, T. E., Mayo, L., Czuj, A., Willuhn, I.,… Akil, H. (2011). A selective role for dopamine in stimulus-reward learning. Nature, 6, 469 (7328), 53-7.


AuthorLaurie Carey

Another year of CreatingSTEAM has passed and it is with deep emotion that our team separates after almost three weeks of preparing, training, and then delivering an incredible ten-day program for students ages 13-18 years old.  Students enter the first day confused, nervous, and unsure of what to expect.  They exit energized, more mature, with new friendships, mentors, and empowered to continue learning. How can all this be possible in just 10 days, you might ask? In its third year of development and continuing to be shaped each year this immersive program challenges students to find their strengths and stretch outside their comfort zones.  WCTD provides the optimal learning environment by giving students a space in which to learn and to experience what the real world of entrepreneurship feels like.  Whether they will someday start their own business, or be a part of a team that does, this program takes them on a journey to see and feel what might be possible.

Many programs create separations in gender and in cultural backgrounds however, in the real world students will enter a workforce filled with diversity. WCTD believes that in order to change the gender and racial biases that exists we need to stop placing students in buckets of separation and teach them the value of diversity at any early age. Not only diversity in gender, culture, socioeconomic background, but diversity in thinking and learning styles as well. It is not an easy task, but unless we bring about change many students who can bring enormous value to the workforce will be left behind. The loss of intellectual potential is beyond our understanding today but will become apparent when these students enter the workforce and businesses pay the price in training their staff members to value the diversity they bring. We believe that investment needs to take place now, before the bias becomes so difficult it costs businesses 1000x the cost it would to invest while students are in middle school and high school.

Students delve into their first activity

Students delve into their first activity

Starting the first day with activities that engage the students to value each other's diversity is critical so we begin with teaching Mind Mapping. Mind mapping helps students demonstrate their creativity and get to know each other.  They share their values, their goals for the program, and a bit about who they are and what they enjoy. Call it an icebreaker, maybe. We call it the key that starts the engine, moving students to work together.

Students creating their first mind map to introduce themselves to one another. 

Students creating their first mind map to introduce themselves to one another. 

We developed an algorithm to meld the students into diverse teams to ensure that we have a blend across age groups, gender, coding skill levels, school attended, and creative skills. Each team is tasked with developing a business that solves a social issue with global impact. They then must create a website, mobile app, develop a branding book, integrate a humanoid robot, and prepare a 15 minute presentation that includes a 1-2 minute marketing video that demonstrates their product or organization with a call to action. It is immersive and real world. Of course we teach them the skills necessary to accomplish the project requirements. They are mixed with students they have never met and must learn to understand the value that each member brings to the team and execute under time constraints.

Winners of our Tower Building Team Activity!

Winners of our Tower Building Team Activity!

Each day brings more team building to help create the bond they will need to execute a successful project. Students are introduced to Stanford Universities' Design Thinking model. They will leverage the model to brainstorm ideas and utilize mind mapping to expand on those ideas. They make connections to how their idea maps to the team's values. Supporting students in understanding the importance of values and how those values contribute to successful businesses, helping to shape the mission statement for their conceptual business idea.

Students learning the Design Thinking Model

Students learning the Design Thinking Model

For many students coding can be a scary thought and drive them away from ever discovering their potential. Creating an environment that allows for exploration and autonomy helps to shift their thinking and stretch beyond their experience to reach new goals.  In this way students learn how to empower their own learning and what it means to be a lifelong learner.  Our online student community provides a mechanism for students to not only stay engaged with the students they meet, but the speakers, mentors and to engage in future programs.  Taking students from middle school to high school, to college and to career ensures they have the resources to support their learning and the community to develop a network for their future.

Our Community Ambassadors teach GitHub and the Command Line 

Our Community Ambassadors teach GitHub and the Command Line 

As students learn about design thinking they are introduced to the concept of ideation and how that plays into engineering of both software and hardware.  Introducing students to robotics with our Trossen humanoid robots is always a big hit and provides the opportunity for students to learn skills in Linux operating system as well as command line coding. The best part for the students is learning problem solving skills through continuous failure.  Working with something new creates a challenge and they must stretch to understand new concepts.  They fail over and over again and again, with our support we help them see the value of failure. When they master for example getting the robot to stand on its own through programing the feeling of accomplishment helps to create the long term value we seek in shaping them to understand the value of failure.

Breaking out the HR0S1 Humanoid Robot to learn about engineering and design

Breaking out the HR0S1 Humanoid Robot to learn about engineering and design

Learning to collaborate, in diverse teams is critical and a necessary 21st century workforce skill. Our students gain self-awareness and the understanding of the value of having a diverse team and the impact that diverse thinking has on innovation and bringing a product to market. Learning to collaborate develops confidence and coopetition to support success in school, college and careers.

WCTD invested this year to build the capacity to teach students global collaboration skills through our International Code-a-thon. We partnered with Iluka Resources in Western Australia (WA) where a team of employees and industry volunteers delivered the program for students in WA. The success of that program lead Iluka to support a team of 5 to participate and learn from our CreatingSTEAM program in NYC in July, with an intent to establish WCTD programs in Australia and support STEAM education in Australia. This demonstrates that the WCTD program concept is transferable to other countries and can support a range of industry talent needs by driving more students towards STEAM careers. 

The Community Ambassador Program (CAP) grows through mentor participation at CreatingSTEAM. Our organization is run by students for students, and that is demonstrated in the results we see from CreatingSTEAM each year. Watching the student ambassadors lead sessions, moderate career panels with industry experts, develop their leadership skills, and provide continuous feedback to make the program better is what makes the program such a success. The CAP students demonstrate the character, motivation, and willingness to learn that employers seek to find when recruiting. We could not be prouder of their dedication to the program and to their own professional development. These are the students that will shape our future and who are dedicated to creating positive change around the world.  We look forward to continuing to build the CAP program and provide students the opportunity to teach, learn and develop leadership qualities around the world.

Community Ambassadors lead students the day's learning.

Community Ambassadors lead students the day's learning.

When you deliver a consistent process in teaching you see the key changing points that occur with the students each year.  We know when the teams start to jell and flow in their work together when they begin to inspire each other and collaborate to see each other succeed, and the effort they put in outside of the program, in some cases late into the night.  It is amazing to see and feel the energy that is created when you provide students the space to learn and to succeed through failure and success; it energizes everyone and creates the model and characteristics that employers seek to hire.  Students come away with pride in their work and a true understanding of what the real world work environment could be like. They have a sense of how their role in contributing to a team and working hard together to solve problems that impacts humanity can change the future in positive ways.

The final projects the teams produce is emotional for the students, the parents who come to watch, the mentors who supported them throughout the program, and our entire team and volunteers who shape the program and ensure the students outcomes are positive.  Students come away learning resource tools from Microsoft that are utilized in the workforce, coding and website design, the design thinking model, self-awareness and presentation skills and so much more. The outcomes create what is necessary to build the personal confidence to present in front of a live global audience. When the students depart they are just beginning their journey to be lifelong learners and have a greater understanding of the meaning of collaboration and the value of failure in learning to succeed.

You can see what our students think of We Connect The Dots by checking out a presentation put together by CreatingSTEAM student Adam Y. CLICK HERE

Stop by our Facebook page to see the stunning projects created by our student teams during their two weeks with us at the Microsoft office: https://www.facebook.com/weconnectthedots/videos

How You Can Help:

Help us to do more by donating to WCTD.  In order to continue to offer these types of programs we need your support, help us to create positive change for everyone.

Here is how you can help us. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved:

  1. Help us secure sponsors for future programs: If your place of business, parent group, or organization is looking for outreach and community involvement, help us by securing sponsors for our Code-a-thon this January. Branding opportunities are available for sponsors, and is a great way to get exposure through philanthropy. Simply contact our program manager, Stephen Sobierajski at (631) 468-7475 Ext 0, to learn more about sponsorship and what it means to our students.
  2. Bring programming to your school district: We Connect The Dots can deliver high quality experiential education programs in your district, but we need your help to make the connection! Visit our site and fill out our program inquiry form to tell us how we can improve exposure to STEAM education for students in your district: Bring Programs to Your School.
  3. Volunteer: We need volunteers to make our programs possible, support our daily activities, and help us reach out to more students that need us. As a volunteer, you can help us make positive change in the future of education and secure opportunities for students all over the world. Becoming a volunteer is easy. Just click the following link and let us know how you would like to help: Volunteer for WCTD
AuthorLaurie Carey