igniteCS

Casey Alvarado '17
 

I was first introduced to coding when I was a junior in high school. I took Computer Science as an elective because I needed two electives. I learned Scratch, computer graphics, and basic algorithms in Java. I was very lucky.

I was at home this past winter break, helping my two cousins, Michelle and Jocelyne, with their math homework. Jocelyne is in middle school and Michelle is on the precipice of middle school. They are both bratty, witty, intelligent, and sassy. As I was trying to help them with their math homework, they told me that it’s okay if they’re not good at math because they’re girls and they still have a long way to go. I was shocked that their school has instilled these gendered stereotypes into their brains. I want them to dream big about their goals and then set out to accomplish those.

Around this time, there was a carpe thread (carpe is short for “carpe diem,” the name of an email distribution list at Olin where people post opportunities, events, and things they think other people might be interested in). It was an email gauging interest to start an igniteCS group. igniteCS is a Google initiative, where Google sponsors groups of college students who want to make a difference in young minds through computer science mentoring. I usually do not reply to carpe emails because I don’t usually find them relevant, but I thought about Michelle and Jocelyne. I thought about how to introduce them to what I do, how if we teach young minds about computer science, their brains will have more time to soak up the logic and perhaps they will see doing computer science as an attainable goal in life. So I replied to this thread and I attended the interest meeting. The final group of people consists of 5 people, 3 males and 2 females (including myself). It’s a pretty great group of people.

In February, we decided that the way we would spark a computer science interest in young minds would be by hosting workshops, one Saturday per month. We would go to a middle school in the Greater Boston area, and invite around 75 students. We would host workshops on computer science topics. In case you didn’t know, Olin has a project-based curriculum and we learn through experimentation. Similar to Olin’s teaching style, the workshops would consist of projects or goals for them to achieve and we would walk around for individualized assistance when needed. We would also make take-home learning packets for them, so that they can, with instructions, experiment more at home. We hope this will spark their interest in computer science and foster their creativity and curiosity for computer science. 

In February, we filled out the Google sponsorship form, asking Google to sponsor our igniteCS group at Olin. In March, we heard back and we received around $3,000 from Google to make our workshops happen; it was such an exciting day!! The money will be used to buy equipment for students to experiment with such as Arduinos, software licenses, USBs, snacks, and other electronics.

Currently, we are planning a workshop at Pollard Middle School on Saturday, May 7th. As you can see in the poster below, there will be two workshops.

Poster

I, along with my peer, will lead an HTML workshop. The plan is to first load a web page, and then inspect the console to play with the HTML for that web page. We would then provide them with a toolbox of HTML code for them to play with and view in their browser. Then finally, their project will be to make a web page about their favorite thing in the entire world, using the HTML tools we provided. Additionally, we will provide a take-home learning packet that guides them through the very basics of javascripts like forEach loops, alerts, and other things.

The other workshop group, led by my other peers, is planning to show them how to write Arduino C code, compile it onto the Arduino, and be able to see LED lights change colors. The best thing about this? The students will be able to take everything home because thanks to Google, we can afford that! Therefore, with their take-home learning packet, they can keep writing code and playing with their Arduino at home!

This is so thrilling because we will be helping schools with students that want to learn more about computer science, but the schools might not necessarily have the resources. I am so unbelievably excited to help make a difference in young people’s computer science education!!! It’s really fun to plan these events and write these mini tutorials, and be able to share one of my passions with young people, hoping to inspire (or “ignite”?) them to love computer science as much as I do! 

Posted in: Casey '17