TheOpenCode Foundation

We're a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization which provides underrepresented youth the opportunity to pursue a career in computer science.

Photo of Vardhan Agrawal
16 57

Written by

Additional categories (optional)

  • Education

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project Started

May / 2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

According to a recent study, two-thirds of engineering jobs are in computer science; however, less than 10% of disadvantaged students major in it. For reasons such as a lack of exposure, an absence of awareness, and a perceived high cost of a computer science education, students from low-income backgrounds are underrepresented in the field. Bringing the opportunity to code to these students can be life-changing and increase upward mobility.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Solving this inequality can be a boon to both the computer science industry and the students we help. However, we believe that success can only come from a genuine spark of curiosity. Our programs are designed in a way to give everyone an opportunity in computer science, while ensuring that we don't waste precious resources on those who may be forced into the field as a means to an end. In fact, our entire purpose is to give everyone a flavor of computer science, but focus strongly on the students that show promise. As such, we have two programs: a bootcamp and an accelerator. We invite students aged 10-19 from supportive housing facilities to a ten-week bootcamp program. These students have no experience with computer science, and through a mild-to-moderately challenging curriculum, they develop fundamental computer science skills through hands-on coding projects, engaging sessions, and group presentations.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

The idea was born when I visited our parents' construction site and had the opportunity to meet with a couple of the workers' kids on the job site. In the Bay Area, computer science is a lucrative field, and for many disadvantaged youth, a career such as this can be transformative, allowing them to overcome their circumstances. I first became interested in computer science during elementary school and taught myself to code via free books, articles, and tutorials online and subsequently released my first app on the App Store soon after entering middle school. However, I've always had access to an internet connection and a computer, and after speaking with the kids on my parents' construction site, I learned that many people who don't have access to such resources may never have the same opportunities as me. From that day, I was determined to change this, and I founded this organization.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

We recently partnered with a rural school in central Africa. These students didn't have access to computers and hence lacked 21st century skills. By providing these students with computers and training school faculty, we gave these youth an opportunity they would have never dreamed of before. After our 10-week program was over, the bootcamp instructors noticed that Kwame and Ekon went the extra mile and began teaching their neighbors computer science after starting our program. Before graduating from the bootcamp, they even launched their own video game which many other children from their village began to play. The students now have possibly life-changing opportunities, and because they showed exceptional aptitude for computer science, our organization will continue to help them thrive by connecting them to industry leaders and support them throughout their higher education.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

We recognize that we're not the first organization to bring new opportunities to disadvantaged students, however, we're radically different in the way we approach further study. Individual attention for disadvantaged students, especially in computer science, is unheard of. In fact, many STEM initiatives for such students are only focused on the number of students in their program, usually putting quantity over quality. While it's important to reach many students, its equally important to help those with the highest interest levels thrive, which we do with our rigorous accelerator program.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

After starting with local homeless shelters in California, my organization has opened chapters in other parts of the United States and has also partnered with rural schools in Kenya, Uganda, and India. We're constantly growing and are adding new countries to the list. In addition to this, we've raised over $16K in the last two weeks, after receiving our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. In the places we're currently established, we've run several of our bootcamps, which give students an introduction to basic computer science and are in the process of identifying candidates for our accelerator program, which provides financial support, additional education, and connections for job opportunities in the future. We constantly strive to (a) reach more students and give them exposure to coding and (b) support high-performing individuals in continued computer science studies and career building.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Currently, our program has been adopted by many homeless shelters. In addition to continuing to expand our list of shelters, we're also looking to expand into Title I schools and open our own computer science labs in rural areas. Our curriculum has already been vetted by industry-leading professionals, however, we're always looking to improve how we teach and are constantly enlisting new volunteers. Last but not least, we understand that many prospective students may have never seen or heard of a computer before, and we're working on an introduction to computer applications sub-program, which teaches basic computer skills (setting up an email, joining social media, typing, etc.) and can greatly increase the number of students we can reach.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Public Relations

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k
  • Donations over $10k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

70 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 57.1%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 7.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 5.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 4.3%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 25.7%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 60%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 5.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 5.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 11.4%

1 - This entry is weak here - 17.1%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 57.6%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 10.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 6.1%

1 - This entry is weak here - 25.8%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 30.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 9.1%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 18.2%

1 - This entry is weak here - 54.5%

No Answer - 6.1%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 51.5%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 12.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 4.5%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 6.1%

1 - This entry is weak here - 25.8%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Savannah Grasmick

Oh I also like how you mentioned you began teaching them to challenge yourself, because experiences like this are so time consuming and impact YOU as well.

View all comments