Ground Up Computer Science

A computer science experience for kids like none other.

Photo of Noah Rossi
2 1

Written by

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

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

October 1, 2000

Where are you located:

Delaware: Newark (19702, 19711), Wilmington (19801, 19802)

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

http://groundupcs.com/
Instagram and Facebook coming soon

Date Started

January 2018

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

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

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

Computer science education in K-12 is lacking a skills-based contemporary computer science (CS) curriculum and highly qualified teachers to execute the curriculum. Eager students are prevented from reaching their true potential by a restricted program of study. Curious students are not exposed to modern computer science. For example, 85% of high school students do not have access a meaningful computer science course.

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

Computer science is accessible to young people with proper mentorship and structure. Students as early as 5th grade are able to understand Linux and write programs in real programming languages. We know this not only because we have done it ourselves, but because we have taught middle school aged students these concepts in the span of a week. For the past couple years, Noah helped run and now organizes a summer camp, teaching students to learn how to use and program their own Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized computer. For the first two days, the students learn from experience how to configure a Linux operating system, how to remotely access their systems, how to program them with Python, and how to use them with other electronics. For the next three days, with help from mentors, students work on their own games or projects, which they show to their parents on the last afternoon of the camp. For these last days, students follow their interests and work on something that they find interesting.
    Throughout this experience, we have discovered that computer science education does not need to be boring. Students can learn how actual computers work, using real technologies.

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

A girl, we'll call her Jasmine for privacy's sake, entered our camp without any real programming experience at all, besides Scratch. She wanted to learn all about how computers worked and how to program using a real language, but all her school had taught her was Scratch, which was limiting and didn't feel authentic. Through our camp, she learned how to use her own Raspberry Pi computer and wrote her first Python game. After the camp, her mother came up to us and explained how much it meant to her that she was able to get this experience. Beforehand, she had no method of obtaining programming skills, but our program gave her that opportunity. Moreover, she was able to make her very first game with guidance from our instructors in our project-based curriculum.

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

Our program not only created for students, but also created by students. We understand the struggles that go along with learning computer science at this age, so we're able to create fun activities and ways to make the content more exciting and understandable. In comparison to existing afterschool computer science programs, we offer a better student:instrutor ratio, a project-based curriculum that is proven to work, and a lower cost (by around a factor of 2). Besides being better than alternatives nationally, we are the only group doing this in the state of Delaware.

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

We've taught over 65+ students in the program over the past 5 years, and we're looking to scale up even more this year. This year we've scaled to over 40 students through 4 different partnerships that we have with schools and community organizations.

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

We plan to partner with more schools and community organizations as well as offer more programs. Right now we only offer two types of summer programs, but we are planning to offer after school programming in the fall, along with creating new types of workshops and summer programs.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

We primarily need more human resources to scale at this point. We need to create more curriculum, focus on partnerships, and spread the word to more people. Once we begin to have more students than our instructors can handle, we will need to hire more instructors.

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

  • Friend support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

We're already partnering with a program that specifically targets low-income at-risk youth in an effort to increase equity in the computer science. We would love to partner with more organizations like to both increase our reach as well as equity in computer science, because we understand the importance of equal opportunity.

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

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Zack Jones and Dual School.

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Photo of Brittany Corner
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Great Idea!

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