CodeCreate Crafty Coding Share Out

What if children led other children imagining, programming and building cardboard robots aside other fantastic creatures and castles?

Photo of Jefferey Sweeton
3 1

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Caine was bored in his father's auto parts store but his original cardboard arcade revolutionized his life; the short online movie about him inspired me but also inspired Silas who crafted an alien dog, interfaced to a computer and made with Jeremiah: united in a common vision, despite their different races and neighborhoods. Ella, Silas's sister, has done more, guiding other youth: engineering, technology and art traveling from an online video to a garage to throughout Chicago and beyond.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

I am a white male, but I still feel like a minority as an artist among technologists.


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Illinois

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Illinois

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Chicago (Additional successful workshops have been in London, England, Ottawa, Canada, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Milwaukee, Wisconsin as well as with The National Art Educator Association and the National Science Foundation and are planned in Boston, Massachusetts, New York and beyond.)

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Children, too often, learn both at school and in their neighborhood that science and technology are not creative: around fifth grade, science and art classes inhabit different spaces and token lines of code or circuit demos are not linked with abilities in other domains; inquiry waits. Youth adapt to "kits," rather, than using technology to adapt original designs. Devalued and isolated in every day neighborhoods, children are led further astray.

Children in CodeCreate use accessible, tactile tools to both explore their own abilities in engineering, art, technology and science and to lead other children on similar explorations. In this way, the inherent abilities and resources of a community are critical and "exponentially multiply" with each project and workshop.

Through these roving workshops at a diverse array of organizations in a diverse array of neighborhoods, diverse learners are brought together- either digitally or physically (or both). Syntonic appreciations -- in harmony with one's passions -- will drive electronic construction, blending both functional and aesthetic outputs.

Indeed, children must have a command of the world and technology can be viewed creatively. As a poet reaches within her language to find the right word, abilities with technology can become a new fluency. We will no longer say, "it's amazing what they can do" but will envision, suggest and demand technology that works for us.

Youth will not view technology as a contemporary phenomena unrelated to fundamental skills. "Basic" studies will not be boredom that a student must slog though- math and science and engineering will combine with art and design in new technology and products that students will create. Youth will not receive ready-made knowledge but will invent and discover their own meaningful manifestations. 

In addition to directly publicizing youth-serving events to formal classroom teachers, we will hold professional development workshops with youth presentations; these will not only be a presentation of our work but a conversation about means of integration, with our visiting classrooms eagerly offered.

We will implement repeated "Imagination Chapters," youth-serving workshops, guided by the Imagination Foundation. We will also provide invitations (and, in most cases, travel) to city-wide events and continue to empower select youth with paid facilitating positions at these events.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • LGBTQ or non-binary individuals
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Seeing Caine Monroy's story online reminded me of the best of the Intel Computer Clubhouse that I coordinated. Brandon, a young man I first met at our Clubhouse while he was in middle school, came back to our Cardboard Challenges (now in high school). Alexis was impressed by his charisma as well as coding and building skills. She built then but, later and in different spaces, explored her own abilities, wiring her own parallel circuits, modeling her own likeness and recording her own stop-motion movie before sharing her abilities: the creative exploration, medium integration, skill affirmation and cultivated wellbeing continue, passed between young designer and student, roles evolving and interchanging in reflective communities.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since last May, we've collaborated with over twenty five organizations. (These have included the National Science Foundation, the National Art Educator Association, Disney Schools, refugee services in Ottawa, Canada and diverse organizations on the North, West and South sides of Chicago.) Quantitative evaluation has varied greatly between these organizations but many have measured student engagement by providing youth a range of activities in which CodeCreate has consistently been in the top three of voluntary participation (often among nearly a hundred activities). Indeed, over five hundred youth have demonstrated new abilities with us. Qualitatively, however, we know youth have a new perspective when they explain how they'll continue creative iterations, often for years. In our future impact, we seek more conceptually, socioeconomically and geographically diverse participants.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $10k - $50k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

CodeCreate only seeks to maintain a small budget. Revenue from select tuition based classes and consultation for the National Science Foundation and others combine with small expected sponsorship, however, resource efficiency, such as provided space at the Chicago Cultural Center, use of recycled building materials and increased national dialogue within the Imagination Foundation ensure financial sustainability of our small operating costs.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are hundreds of cardboard challenges, thousands of coding classes, tens of thousands of film making, theatre or puppetry classes (many as innovations with Ashoka) and even more young artists quietly crafting, however, CodeCreate uniquely combines these passions empowering youth voice. We differ from typical coding in our appreciation of tactile pursuits; we differ from other Cardboard Challenges in our expert integration of programming and robotics and we differ from other art and performance development in our unlikely integration, all "training trainers" as children return these skills

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

With training from MIT's Media Lab and others, we take the idea of youth learning by making as well as physical and online peer to peer mentoring. Making and "STEM" explorations are increasingly common. While often illustrating scientific concepts, though making activities should avoid prescribed outcomes that do not fully leverage youth's prior passions, abilities and resources. "Constructionism" leads naturally to youth as teachers of other youth as they are already the experts anyway: this creative empowerment does not just craft new technology, but new environments and wellbeing.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)



Join the conversation:

Photo of Old Friend

Hello, I really enjoyed reading your post. It's very helpful and interesting. Test your typing speed online, find out how fast can you type with WPM test online and get online typing certificate. Visit here :

View all comments