codeSpark was born when my young daughters showed an interest in how computers work. When I went looking for an “ABC’s of computer science” to support their growing interest - I couldn’t find anything!
This seemed crazy to me. Especially when thinking about my middle daughter graduating from high school in 2025 - a world where almost every job will be impacted by computers and software.
I became obsessed with the lack of computer science education for K-5 kids globally. Two years later over 4 million kids in 172 countries have used our game The Foos to learn the ABCs of computer science
This first camp is a pilot program with two partners so we kept enrollment to 20 kids. It was the first time we were using our game design curriculum in a camp setting instead of a classroom. The goal is to build a "camp in a box" platform with curriculum, training videos, etc. so any club, team or other group who wants to follow the curriculum themselves could do so. We anticipate holding camps for several hundred kids ourselves over the next 6-9 months. Our partner STEAMcoders helps us find and register the kids. STEAMcoders works with schools in the area that have a high % of minority and free lunch kids.
Confidence building is a HUGE factor in our work. In fact, from the very beginning of working on our app The Foos we make it a priority to build kids confidence during the first chapter of puzzles. When kids are confident they are much more persistent when challenges get difficult. They are also more likely to share their opinions and collaborate with others. So confidence building is woven into everything we do, especially in the first two days of camp. We also train instructors on confidence building tactics like praising a girl publicly for a small victory and making sure everyone has a chance to contribute to discussions.
Game design skills + empathy are a powerful combination. Yes there is a broad benefit to logical problem solving and thinking from someone else's point of view but our goal is to give the girls confidence to take on problems in their own lives via games. Game design is not easy however so our initial goals are to provide a foundational knowledge of the process of game design, build confidence in the idea of using technology as a tool and build interest in learning more about coding and game design. We are helping them assemble a mental toolbox for future problem solving.
We've seen older kids tackle tough issues like neighborhood safety, low adult literacy rates and teen pregnancy via game design and the conversations enabled by the game format tend to be deeper than you would achieve in a simple class discussion.
Karla, This is constantly on our mind. We address this a few different ways. First one of our advisors is Tracy Fullerton who runs the game design dept at USC and is an icon of serious game design. Through Tracy we recruit top women interns for the camp, including women of color.
We also have partnered with a local group called STEAMcoders (www.steamcoders.org), an organization dedicated to inspiring underrepresented and underserved students and families through the fundamentals of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM). We get qualified female HS students of color to help with the camp too.
We also support WIGI (Women in Games International) and bring speakers from WIGI to the camp. Thanks for the great question! Grant