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.

Posted
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. 

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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

References:

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.

 

Posted
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
Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

CreatingSTEAM 2016 is quickly approaching. In just a few weeks, students from all across the New York Metro Area will arrive at Microsoft NYC for two weeks of immersive STEAM learning, team building, and entrepreneurial challenges, working together to solve real problems facing humanity and learning valuable skills for the future. This year, students will also enjoy working with our international partners from Australia, as their team of students, teachers, and industry professionals will be joining us for the program to see how the model can be applied back at home. 

Students work together to program their humanoid robot, the HROS1 by Trossen Robotics

Students work together to program their humanoid robot, the HROS1 by Trossen Robotics

For those who have not experienced the CreatingSTEAM program, it is a life-changing opportunity for students who want to learn more about how science, technology, engineering, arts and math will affect their future, what kinds of careers will exist when they are graduating high school and college, and how to educate themselves and become lifelong learners.

Students brainstorm their concept for a conceptual business that will serve humanity

Students brainstorm their concept for a conceptual business that will serve humanity

Feedback from our students and teacher community has been overwhelmingly positive. Students report an increased or renewed interest in technology, a greater level of comfort using technology systems and tools, and a deeper understanding of the roles involved in industries like engineering, science, mathematics, and art. We compiled a few pieces of data from the exit assessment administered to students at the end of the program that show how the learning impacted the students' thinking. Students were asked to evaluate the program, what they learned, and how it changed their thinking. Here are some of their responses (identities have been removed to protect our students):

"I have discovered what I want to do after high school. I also know how to work better in team."

"This event has taught me to get out of my comfort zone. I used to be very shy and socially awkward, but the activities helped me interact with others."

"I learned a ton of things. One of those things would be that you can never give up on your dreams. Once you find something you love, stick with it and be open to opportunities because you never know where the world will take you. I also learned a ton of things about STEAM and what that is. I learned how many different jobs play into the idea of STEAM and how there are limitless possibilities in those fields."

"During my time here I learned so much, as in building computers, apps, and websites, also learning the different jobs and skills that people who in the technology and engineering fields need to have."

"I learned never to put my ideas on hold."

"I learned to try new things. And have fun doing it."

A student leads our discussion panel with experts from various STEAM industries. This was one of the most exciting parts of the two-week program. 

A student leads our discussion panel with experts from various STEAM industries. This was one of the most exciting parts of the two-week program. 

These are not one-off appraisals of the CreatingSTEAM program. These are the results we see time and again in our programs. We Connect The Dots emphasizes longevity in all of our programs by addressing where students can go for further learning, how they can access the resources they need, and asking them to reflect on what they have learned. The program this year will build on all of the positive experiences and learning opportunities in the past, and venture into new territory for the students participating this year. 

If you would like to attend this program, there are still a few seats available. Visit our webpage to learn more and sign up! If you would like to support We Connect The Dots in our effort to make these kinds of programs available to all students, please consider donating to our Indiegogo Campaign. Your support can change the life of a student for the better. 

 

 

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

We Connect The Dots Founder and Executive Director, Laurie Carey, recently joined journalist and innovative problem solver, Devin Thorpe, to discuss how we can be better communicators, thinkers, and professionals in a fast-paced, technology-dependent world. By disrupting the status quo and diversifying - not only in our professional workplace but also in our personal relationships - we can benefit from differing perspectives, fostering innovation, and positive change. 

In her endeavors in both the for-profit and nonprofit arenas, Laurie has taught students, teachers, administrators, and other working professionals strategies to work and communicate in brain-friendly ways that benefit their relationships, education, and businesses. 

Some of the methods for brain-friendly communications which Laurie shares in her interview are the foundations for her consulting practice and the pedagogical framework for We Connect The Dots' educational programs. 

Overcoming Brain Bias: Brain bias occurs without conscious thought and affects the decisions you make every day. It can be a blockage preventing you from making more positive relationships in your professional or personal life, or it can prevent you from learning something new. Laurie can often be heard using the words "getting uncomfortable to get comfortable" or encouraging people to stretch themselves. Though it can be difficult or uncomfortable at first, setting goals outside your comfort zone is a way to develop new skills and advance further than was previously thought possible. Though we create our biases over a long period of time, conscious thinking and actions can reshape the way we execute decisions and eliminate brain bias from our daily lives.

Diversity and Innovation: We live in a diverse world, where people of differing ethnicities, religions, and values shape our society. Companies and other professional workplaces spend huge sums of money in order to teach people how to work in a diverse environment because leaders have begun to realize that a blending of different perspectives, diverse mindsets, and ideas is a direct path to innovation. We can promote diversity by simply being open to the idea and creating a space in which to allow for the sharing of different values and ideas. 

Disruption is an Engine of Positive Change: Technology continues to disrupt our workplaces, schools, and communities in a myriad of ways, and the trend of late is that it happens more and more rapidly. Industries that cannot navigate or mitigate disruption to their systems are doomed, but the ones that can are the ones that create positive change. As Laurie likes to say, "You can either be disruptive, or be disrupted." What you choose can determine your future. 

We Connect The Dots is an organization that creates positive change for the next generation. You can be a part of that change by supporting WCTD and our students around the world. Click below to learn how you can support WCTD. 

What does "community" mean today? In a fast-paced world where we are all running in many different directions to manage our work schedules, family obligations, and personal commitments, how do we support our communities? How do you find the time and resources to get involved?

Students at the beginning of the day getting ready to dive into the learning session and begin planning ideas for their website.

Students at the beginning of the day getting ready to dive into the learning session and begin planning ideas for their website.

This past weekend, the members of Plainview-Old Bethpage (POB) Central School District took on a unique and innovative approach to community involvement through BuildingSTEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math) education. Like many school districts across the country who are seeking innovative education experiences for their students, POB partnered with WCTD to bring a one-day BuildingSTEAM technology program to their district. The goal was to introduce over 130 students in middle school ages 10-14 to the world of software development through building websites. 

Founder and CEO, Laurie Carey, addresses the high school student mentor team, laying out plans for the day's event. 

Founder and CEO, Laurie Carey, addresses the high school student mentor team, laying out plans for the day's event. 

To achieve their goal, the superintendent, teachers, administrators, high school students, and even community members built a team to support the initiative.  They were all part of the learning experience in providing a community program where everyone works together and gets out of their comfort zone to learn to design websites that addressed the vital task of solving social problems.

Student team poses for a photo during our mind mapping session, during which students use visual representations of their identity to introduce themselves to one another and get comfortable with their teammates. 

Student team poses for a photo during our mind mapping session, during which students use visual representations of their identity to introduce themselves to one another and get comfortable with their teammates. 

Teaching 21st century workforce skills is not just about teaching coding or using technology. Students began the day by being placed in diverse teams of 4 students per team.  WCTD leverages an algorithm designed to ensure that every team contains a mix of boys and girls as well as different ages to create diversity in thinking and approaches to solving problems.  Teaching the value of diversity is important in building innovative solutions and creating team dynamics where everyone has a voice in the decision making.  In order to create a positive learning experience, students engaged in a mind mapping activity to get creative and had fun introducing themselves to each other.  

Students were asked to share their values and passions for creating positive change in the world.  This naturally lead into a thinking session on how the group would work together to decide on a social issue that was important to them.  Next, students learned about the structure of the internet and how websites play a role in solving social issues.  Many students utilize technology on their phones, tablets, and other devices, but are not really educated about how the technology functions or is developed to provide the content they read. This generation needs to develop the foundational knowledge of the world they spend so many hours interacting in online in order to truly navigate the web and utilize it in a way that achieves the most good. Teaching these concepts helps students understand how to properly utilize the resources the internet offers and how to leverage those resources to solve real global issues.

Students begin working on thier projects: A website that showcases their social inniative to solve a global human problem. 

Students begin working on thier projects: A website that showcases their social inniative to solve a global human problem. 

After learning about how the internet plays a role in solving social issues, they began learning to create websites using common web design tools utilized by many organizations today. This opportunity allowed each student to setup a website and experience how easy it is to express oneself via the web.  Students were given a rubric to follow with their teams and a timeline to complete their projects, which gave their projects a deliberate focus while promoting autonomy in their thinking.  Through working on their designs, they were tasked with demonstrating their competency in building a website, researching the social issue, explaining how they would address the social issue, and capturing all of the content in their website. Each team then presented their final project at the end of the day.  The high level of autonomy in planning and execution allowed the students to get creative and passionate about their cause.  The results, as WCTD has seen again and again at these programs, is that students of all ages - when given the right guidance, tools, and autonomy to be creative - will produce work that is astounding every time. Throughout the day, students stretched outside their comfort zones and had fun learning together.

Getting down to business: students work together planning and developing their idea through brainstorming and autonomous research.

Getting down to business: students work together planning and developing their idea through brainstorming and autonomous research.

The POB team worked as volunteers throughout the day supporting the students' learning experience.  Many POB high school students volunteered as mentors to work with the middle school students to support their success. There was no prerequisite requirement on the part of the volunteers to understand how to build a website, only the desire to learn and to support teaching the younger students. The WCTD team facilitated the training and overall program with a goal to empower the district to bring a valuable STEAM program to their students.  As was shown during the POB event, WCTD creates positive momentum in districts, where teachers are learning along with the students how to integrate 21st century workforce skills into the classroom. 

Student mentors from Plainview-Old Bethpage High School pack prize bags for participants. 

Student mentors from Plainview-Old Bethpage High School pack prize bags for participants. 

This model or partnership with school districts like POB allows our organization to impact a greater number of students while supporting professional development for teachers at the same time.  Engaging the high school students as mentors provides leadership opportunities for students and positive role models for younger students. Engaging the entire community in the BuildingSTEAM program demonstrates the dedication to education by everyone and how important it is as a community to learn together.

Tower building as a team. One of the many activities WCTD leverages to get teams to bond during events.

Tower building as a team. One of the many activities WCTD leverages to get teams to bond during events.

There were multiple positive outcomes that developed from the program for the school district.  Students in 8th grade experienced the value of computer science as a direct result of participating in the program. During the following week, it was reported that students had shown more of an interest in computer science related subjects, and were adjusting their schedules for their ninth-grade classes to incorporate more computer science courses.  As a result of the students' newly piqued interests, the school is considering holding this program earlier in the year to coincide with guidance conversations and course planning for 9th grade. The district also experienced students taking a strong interest in continuing to work on their projects after the program concluded, demonstrating again the strong connection this program provided for creating an interest in something valuable for their future.  The one unexpected value to the district was the ability to test the success of their 1:1 device initiative by having over 130 plus students working on the wireless network during the program activities.  This experience supported the district IT staff in knowing that the district's infrastructure can handle the extreme use of technology in a learning environment.

The winning teams pose for a photo at the end of the day's presentations

The winning teams pose for a photo at the end of the day's presentations

To learn how to bring this program to your school you can visit us at http://we-connect-the-dots.org or contact us at events@we-connect-the-dots.org

Parents joined at the end of the day to watch their students present some very impressive projects

Parents joined at the end of the day to watch their students present some very impressive projects

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

Each year, We Connect The Dots holds an event at the Microsoft offices in New York City that invites schools from around the NY Metro area to participate in a full day of immersive, experiential learning and 21st century career awareness. This year's program was one of the most successful Discovery Day events held since its inception, with a turnout of six different school districts, totaling at over 175 students, teachers, administrators, and professionals that joined us for this innovative program.

Executive Director Laurie Carey kicks off our Discovery Day 2016 program at Microsoft NYC

Executive Director Laurie Carey kicks off our Discovery Day 2016 program at Microsoft NYC

Why is it important to hold this program each year? Students and teachers need to be kept up to date and aware of how technology is disrupting industries every day and changing future careers along the way.

Mind mapping with We Connect The Dots

Mind mapping with We Connect The Dots

Each year, a student's understanding of possible career choices and the technology and resources they will use in the workforce of the 21st century shift and expand. A student without a working knowledge of software tools, development principles, digital citizenship, and the basics of computer science will find himself/herself graduating into a world with fewer opportunities across the job market. Our mission is to support school districts and students by bringing awareness to the career opportunities and the necessary skills to be successful, no matter what career path they choose, thereby providing students the opportunity to discover what might be possible in their future.

Students get busy creating their mind maps and learning some brainstorming techniques

Students get busy creating their mind maps and learning some brainstorming techniques

The name of our organization, "We Connect The Dots", has meaning to what we accomplish on a daily basis.  We connect students, teachers, industry experts, corporations, and government to create community impact by bringing resources and people together. We know from experience and our metrics the positive impact our programs create for communities. When you create the right blend of learning, fun, and novelty experience, learning outcomes are extremely positive. This is proven time and again in our programs, which place diversity, experience, and the sharing of ideas at the forefront of our pedagogy. By bringing different perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the table, we are able to create an environment that supports life-long learning for students and teachers.

Teachers and administrators from Plainview-Old Bethpage get involved in the day's activities.

Teachers and administrators from Plainview-Old Bethpage get involved in the day's activities.

At its heart, Discovery Day is a day-long demonstration of new technology and educational programs, but it also offers a fun opportunity for students to tour the Microsoft office, hear about different careers in STEAM fields, and participate in gamified learning experiences that demonstrate what professionals in those careers do and how they got to where they are.

Microsoft Operations and Community Manager, Antuan Santana, giving students some insight as to how STEAM learning and careers will shape their futures, and what Microsoft is doing to give students access to STEAM educational resources.

Microsoft Operations and Community Manager, Antuan Santana, giving students some insight as to how STEAM learning and careers will shape their futures, and what Microsoft is doing to give students access to STEAM educational resources.

Workshops at this year's Discovery Day included sessions on robotics, coding, microblogging and social networking, mind mapping, and cyber security. The robotics session demonstrated to students how modern robots function, how they are controlled, and how each component links together to make the robot work. Our particular robot is a Trossen Humanoid Robot called the HR0S1, which uses the Linux emulator PuTTy to allow the user to manipulate the limbs and make the robot move. The session was led by Michael Teal, STEAM Coach for WCTD, leading students through an introduction to robotics and how they continue to impact our lives. 

Michael Teal lines students up to exemplify the concept of a daisy chain, giving students a greater understanding of the electric configuration of our Trossen HR0S1 Humanoid robotics systems. 

Michael Teal lines students up to exemplify the concept of a daisy chain, giving students a greater understanding of the electric configuration of our Trossen HR0S1 Humanoid robotics systems. 

The session on Creative Coding through Games and Apps was delivered by two of our high school community ambassadors, Anthony Brigante and Conor McCormack, who led the students through a short, creative coding session using Touch Develop. The session provided students unfamiliar with coding an opportunity to get comfortable with new terms and new resources, and followed with students working in teams to design a game.

Community Ambassador, Anthony Brigante, configures a team's system before the robotics activity.

Community Ambassador, Anthony Brigante, configures a team's system before the robotics activity.

A signature part of Discovery Day each year is a tour of the Microsoft Technology Center and visiting the showcase Data Center. The high tech facility is a showcase of Microsoft technology, where Microsoft displays some of its emergent technology. Students had the opportunity to see a live broadcast studio and visit the Envisioning Center where Stephen Jeffries, Technology Architect, gave the students a demonstration of the Surface Hub, one of Microsoft's newest products that offers interactive display technology on a touchscreen surface the size of a big-screen television.

Students get an overview of the Surface Hub interactive display from Microsoft Technology Architect, Stephen Jeffries.

Students get an overview of the Surface Hub interactive display from Microsoft Technology Architect, Stephen Jeffries.

Each year, we integrate our new curriculum development into the Discovery Day program.  This provides our team an opportunity to see what resonates with students and if our content is engaging and age appropriate. WCTD is currently working on curriculum for a high school cyber security program.  This program design project is our first international collaboration, and it includes input from a PhD student at Oxford University who is studying cyber security Learning, a teacher from Australia who has mastered PBL in her classrooms, teachers from the US, students from Australia and the US, as well as industry experts in the field of cyber security. The design team worked together to create a 1-hour session for Discovery Day. This session was delivered by one of the design team leads, community ambassador Brittney Segura. Brittney took the students through an overview of what cyber security is and how careers are evolving in that area, from law enforcement to identity protection to social media. Brittney then did an activity with the students that showed them how with just a little information and some critical thinking, a person could use internet resources to track down a criminal, much like the way the FBI does on a regular basis.  The feedback from the teachers and students was very positive and helped to shape how the program will continue to evolve.

Community Ambassador, Brittney Segura, give students an overview of what cyber security means and how it affects daily life. 

Community Ambassador, Brittney Segura, give students an overview of what cyber security means and how it affects daily life. 

Visiting a Microsoft corporate office, or any hi-tech corporate office, is a novelty for many students and creates an excitement to want to learn more. We Connect The Dots would like to thank the Microsoft team in NYC for their continued support of the program and for energizing students and teachers about the possibilities in their future and for providing the free resources for students and educators to develop the 21st century skills for success.

All photos taken by WCTD Community Ambassador Conor McCormack

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

From January 8-10, 2016, students from Western Australia, New York, and Philadelphia collaborated across the internet to solve global challenges using technology.  With the support of Microsoft, ILuka Resources as our host in Perth AU, and our US hosts, St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn and Penn Wood Middle School in Darby, PA., this program provided students an opportunity to explore coding HTML5 (the Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), two of the core technologies for building Web pages. HTML provides the structure of the page, CSS the (visual and aural) layout, for a variety of devices.

Registration ready to go! Thanks to Microsoft for some cool swag for the students!

Registration ready to go! Thanks to Microsoft for some cool swag for the students!

The goal of the program is to teach students how to work in teams and learn to code and solve problems on a global scale.  We live in a software world and this next generation of students entering the workforce will be asked to solve big problems that span the globe and to interact across time zones and cultures.  Students were provided with the opportunity to expand on their own knowledge independently with free learning resources like Khahn Academy and free developer tools like DreamSpark from Microsoft.

Students taking part in an important team-building activity

Students taking part in an important team-building activity

In attending the Hackahton students gained valuable skills that can be taken outside the classroom and aid them in entering the workforce later in life. For many students in poverty stricken communities learning to code and work with developer tools can support a brighter future for them and for their families.

Some important instruction with Dave Voyles, Microsoft Senior Technical Evangelist.

Some important instruction with Dave Voyles, Microsoft Senior Technical Evangelist.

WCTD has taken the best practices of the traditional hackathon concept, normally delivered for college and entrepreneur students, and melded it with our project based experiential learning and neuroscience research based teaching approach. Creating a new innovative experience for students ages 13-18, a critical age in terms of future career opportunities and the skills needed to be successful.

Lessons in device management and development from Chris Gomez

Lessons in device management and development from Chris Gomez

Like our other programs, the Hackathon is designed with a detailed playbook that allows schools, corporate sponsors and communities to deliver the program with our support. This first year was about laying the ground work for a concept that can span around the world, expanding each year to impact more communities and broaden our reach. The result will not only be about teaching students to code but to provide them the collaboration, critical thinking, and global communication skills that are necessary in today’s workforce and in the future. By offering the playbook we are allowing schools to expand their ability to support their students, teachers and community members. We know how difficult it can be for schools to support enrichment programs like ours that prepare students for the workforce, so we take the guess work out. We provide schools an opportunity to learn from industry experts through our partnerships and resources around the world.

Collaboration in Perth AU

Collaboration in Perth AU

Each year we will expand our presence around the nation and around the world through this program, creating a connected community both online and between school districts. With each passing year we will engage more countries to create partnerships so that students and teachers can collaborate and learn together.

Students and mentors putting learning into practice

Students and mentors putting learning into practice

A big thank you to our site leads who took a leap with us to "get uncomfortable to get comfortable" with a new and innovative approach to teaching students:  Kathy Bunce and the entire team from Iluka Resources, Jennifer Hoff, Chris Gomez and the entire team from Penn Wood Middle School, Matthew Mobijohn and Sister Joan Gallagher and the staff and volunteers from St. Joseph High School and all the students, parents and volunteers from South Huntington High School. We would also like to extend a special thank you to Dave Voyles and James Quick, and the entire Microsoft Australia team that supported this program and offered their time and attention to our students for the weekend!

A big thanks to Charis Satchell, a videographer who attended the hackathon to capture all of these great moments. Please take a few minutes to watch!

To learn how you can bring this annual program to your school district contact us at events@we-connect-the-dots.org

Below we have included some statistical data garnered from our student assessments and feedback from our site leads. The results are just from this 48 hour program, but show a marked improvement in students' ability to understand technology, get confident with it, and learn how to use it to solve problems. Imagine what we will be able to accomplish with our two-week program this summer!

Number of students attending the program and the diversity components:

  • Total students across all sites: 86
  • % Girls attended: 43
  • % Boys attended: 57
Pre and Post Hackathon Assessment Survey results 2016

Pre and Post Hackathon Assessment Survey results 2016

It is our  pleasure to be able to share with you the projects created by our students. Please click on the following link that corresponds to our locations during the event for a look at the websites designed by the student teams:

St Josephs High School, Brooklyn NY

Penn Wood Middle School, Darby PA

ILuka Resources, Perth AU

Thanks to a lot of dedicated folks we were also able to capture lots and lots of great photos from the weekend’s events. We invite you to view each location’s photos by clicking on the corresponding link below.

Brooklyn Photos

Darby Photos

Perth Photos

Now it is time for you to get involved! If you are wondering how you can help We Connect the Dots, there are plenty of ways.

Donate: If you believe, as we believe, that our programs have great value in the world of education, then please help us make it happen for more students. Your help will not only allow us to deliver more of these programs in the future, but you will be helping students around the world who need us!

Spread the Word: Help us reach more school districts and students! Want us to deliver a program in your school district? Help us by spreading the word about the great things we do to the school administration in your area. 

Become a Sponsor: We will provide information for other sponsorship opportunities in the future (join our mailing list!). In the meantime, if you are aware of a company or organization who would like to join in our mission of deliver STEAM education to students around the world, please do not hesitate to contact us. There are branding and advertising opportunities for companies and organizations who support our events.

Become a Partner in Education: We are always on the lookout for new grant opportunities to support our organization. If you are aware of an upcoming grant or would like to point us toward partnerships with organizations seeking grant funding, we would love to join forces!

Volunteer: Join us for events like the Hackathon, including our spring and summer programs.

Call or write to us to take part in our mission to provide education to students around the world! How will you help us change the world for students around the globe?

Host Communities:

Upper Darby is an impoverished neighborhood in West Philadelphia. This program is life changing for many students in the Darby community.  An opportunity to be exposed to skills and technology that they would likely never experience within their school district. This program provided students an opportunity to develop skills and understanding of how to empower their own learning and develop a growth mindset to become life-long learners.

St Joseph High School is an all-girls private school located in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. Students from this location added an important diversity element to the Hackathon. A core component of all of WCTD programs is teaching the value of diversity and how important different perspectives of thinking and problem solving impact innovation.  Working in teams of girls mixed with boys with ages ranging from 13-18 creates the real world experience for students.  Teaching diversity at a younger age will ensure our female students sustain in careers where there is a higher ratio of male population, which over time will create the shift we seek. Providing critical learning for both genders to understand the value and the impact to our society long term.

Perth Australia brings the international component to the program, creating the opportunity for students to experience communicating across time zones and cultures.  Students engaged as a group across sites using Skype, they were assigned a challenge to interact via Skype and Yammer to plan their projects and understand how their project would bring value in another country. The Australian team engaged with a program for girls called "SHINE" this program works with young women who are at risk of disengaging from the education system and society, negatively impacting their employment and life opportunities into the future. SHINE supports, educates and empowers young girls with the life skills and tools to ensure their future is in their hands.  Overall the connection for these participants across Australia and the US brought a whole new level of experience this next generation of students will need as we become more and more a global software world.

Our goal for next year (January 20-22, 2017) will be to grow the number of schools and country's involved.  This program was designed to scale and empower schools and communities to come together to learn and empower the next generation.

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey