Cyber Empower Coding Camp

A free coding camp empowering students from underrepresented backgrounds in technology to explore computer science.

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Additional categories (optional)

  • Education
  • Technology

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

January 7, 2002

Help us stay in touch!

650-320-8452, California: Palo Alto (94303)

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

https://www.cyberempower.com, @cyberempower

Date You Started Your Project Started

May 1, 2017

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

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

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

Less than 20% of jobs in technology are held by women and even less are held by technologists from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The lack of diversity that begins in the classroom is eventually reflected in the workforce and has severe repercussions on the future of unbiased and successful technology. This injustice is rooted in the belief that computer science is for certain groups only, a misconception that begins at an early age.

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

Cyber Empower serves as a community to support each camper navigating computer science for the first time through a free, in-person coding camp. By establishing partnerships with various organizations, creating a Python curriculum, and initiating school outreach, we implemented the camp in multiple locations around our state. Our team grew to a family of over 30+ teens and adults who share a passion for computer science education. Together, we developed engaging lessons, collaborative projects, and invited guest speakers from the field to demonstrate the possibilities that lie ahead for our campers. We hold in-person camps at a local software company, TIBCO, and have received support from various non-profits including LITAS for Girls, the City of Palo Alto, and Peace First. Each camp consists of 15-20 middle school students with 4-5 teen-volunteer mentors and instructors. During a class, students have the opportunity to learn computer science fundamentals through interactive demonstrations and lessons, and then later implement these new-learned skills into project frameworks that allow flexibility for creativity and ideas. We help them find how to combine their interests with code.

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

Walking into my first coding workshop during freshman year of high school, I was excited. I had always been fascinated with the incredible technological feats around me, from self-driving cars to automated speech detection, and I wanted to understand the carefully crafted lines of code that created each innovation. However, I was met with a classroom that had only two other girls and I soon found myself questioning whether computer science was the right place for a girl like me. The instructor continued to write code on the board for us to copy exactly and he did not seem interested in teaching at all. After experiencing how exclusionary and unhelpful coding spaces like this were for girls of color like me, I decided to change the narrative and design my own classroom environment that would be exciting for all backgrounds to learn in. I called it Cyber Empower.

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.

Last summer, I met a young girl at our coding camp who seemed confused with the newest topic we were teaching: For loops. For loops allow us to iterate over a block of code multiple times, much like Cyber Empower has been an iterative feedback loop process. One look at the doodles on her notes page, however, showed me her love of art, and I decided to redesign the way I was conveying the content to fit her learning style. In order to explain the concepts, we worked together to code spirals with a Python graphics tool, and soon she was designing for loops to draw infinite curves across her screen. I saw a new-found confidence in her coding skills emerge as she tackled new problems and design challenges. Then to my surprise, she reciprocated this energy in helping out her neighbors with their for loops problems, showing how unique and collaborative our camp truly is.

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

Our free camp is different from other coding camps in that it is for youth-by youth. Having this continuous peer-to-peer interaction deepens the connections that form in our camp and allow us to create our community atmosphere. Furthermore, we do not simply view our campers as students, but young scholars, each with a unique and diverse background. With Cyber Empower, we find creative entry points for students’ learning and we individualize the content for each young scholar so that they can tell their story through code. Finally, we are built on a collaborative and energetic principle.

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

We have impacted over 200+ students and have had 30+ teens and adults join us in our mission to make computer science education accessible and engaging to everyone. After three years of our project, one question on our end-of-camp survey continues to have a unanimous consensus and that is the agreement that the camp is fun and engaging. Hearing that the students themselves are mirroring the excitement we bring to class is not only gratifying, but assures us that we are truly making a difference. Our students are not only designing creative projects, but showing the world that they belong in a field like computer science. As of now, we have held camps in two locations in the state of California.

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

We hope to expand our initiative further, hopefully to more states in the US. In order to truly make our mission of making computer science education accessible and engaging, we need to reach more students. With the support of T-mobile, we can have the platform to leverage this computer science education project to more young scholars, all over the country, and even the world! In the coming year, we are introducing a new curriculum in HTML and web development, and hope to engage more teen mentors and instructors in leading our camps. Cyber Empower aims to begin a new narrative in computer science, one where everyone is included at the table, and becoming a T-mobile Changemaker can help me make that possible.

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

  • Marketing Strategy

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

  • Donations between $1k-$5k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

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