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

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

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

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

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

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Current Grade Levels of Participants

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


The gender ratio is almost equal.

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

Increasing diversity in STEM where it is needed most.

Increasing diversity in STEM where it is needed most.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What do you see in this pattern?

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

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ACTION: How you can help continue our success:

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


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

Lanyards & Badges:

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


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


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

Closing comments:

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

To become a sponsor: SPONSOR

To make a general donation: DONATE

AuthorLaurie Carey

2018 Back-To-School Code-A-Thon

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

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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."

Slide Show DSC_7820.JPG

"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