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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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

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

 Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman

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

 Check out this years projects  Winning Teams   

Check out this years projects Winning Teams  

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

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

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

 

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

Reflecting on the past year

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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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IMPACT

Measuring change through research

Cybersecurity

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

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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.  

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LEARNING TO CODE IS LEARNING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS

Organic Growth

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

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

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

A Place to Call Home

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

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

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

How can you be a part of the positive change?

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

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

Funding Outreach

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

Kathy Bunce Fellowship – Executive Director Leadership Role

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

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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.

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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