Capital One Coders – Not Your Average Science Class


Coding is the universal language of the future and it’s important for every child to learn it (something I wish I was exposed to at a young age). Whether it’s smartphones, social networks, autonomous cars or robotics, computer science opens more doors for students than any other discipline in today’s world. So much so, that 71% of all US jobs require digital skills and high-skilled computing occupations are the fastest-growing, best-paying, and now the largest sector of all new wages in the U.S.

Why are coding skills so important? A recent analysis of 26 million job postings found that nearly half of all the jobs in the top quartile in pay require some coding knowledge or skills. The world of technology is continuously evolving every industry on a global scale, and computing knowledge has become a key part of a well-rounded skill set — but participating in this world requires early access to computer science in our schools.

Sadly, fewer than half of all schools teach computer science (and don’t expect to see changes anytime soon.) A lack of access hurts our economy and creates major inequities in education, particularly for those groups are traditionally underrepresented in computer science and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

By partnering with Capital One, I have learned how their Coders program helps break the barrier of kids in tech, giving middle-schoolers across the country access to the technological know-how from top industry leaders. Early exposure to everything from coding to robots instills a love of STEM that could benefit them in the classroom and beyond. The program is part of Future Edge, Capital One’s initiative to invest in programs that help people succeed in the 21st century.

Through my work in tech for the past 9 years, I know that there is an overarching lack of representation in tech, and it isn’t just limited to women. Recently, as my baby announcement post would suggest, I now think a lot about the role of kids in tech. There is an absence of young innovators and young voices in the tech world, even though technology is a part of a child’s life beginning at birth. Nothing embodies the American Dream so much as the opportunity to change or even reinvent the world through technology.

As tech continues to hurdle us toward a more productive and prosperous future, the sheer pace of change threatens to leave many behind. With looming gaps in education, skills, and earnings today, organizations need to prioritize the needs of younger generations to ensure that they have the opportunities to succeed. Giving kids access to programs like Capital One Coders where they can hone digital skills gives them the ability to prepare for tomorrow today.

Capital One Coders is a 10-week-long program where Capital One associate volunteers teach sixth-, seventh- and eighth- grade students about problem solving, teamwork and the basic principles of software development. In some markets, the Coders program curriculum is also developed into one day “ignite” events. With hands-on experience building their own applications, students learn about coding, algorithms, loops, and conditional statements.

The students learn how to create their own mobile applications using the MIT App Inventor, an open source tool for Android development – ultimately giving them a glimpse of what a career in technology looks like. Students showcase their apps and projects to their peers and parents at the Capital One Coders celebratory closing ceremonies. They compete for prizes in four categories: Best Application, Most User-Friendly, Most Creative, and Most Technical Application. This type of program is foundational in transforming the way a student thinks about the world. It not only teaches them about technology, but it also teaches them how to think differently about any problem.

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Now that computing is the #1 source of all new wages in the U.S., it's important that every child has access to learning computer science in schools, but there’s a lack. I love how the associates at Capital One are encouraged to take time out of their week to volunteer and lead Coders programs through instruction and mentorship at schools in their local communities.

I can’t express the importance of this enough. Imagine -- children growing up not just using technology but learning how to create it. Since the program’s inception in April 2014, Capital One Coders has partnered with over 75 schools and nonprofit organizations, teaching 9,000 students how to code. As of mid-2018, Capital One has engaged 2,500 associate volunteers for over 55,000 hours in pro bono volunteerism for the Capital One Coders program, with continued growth year over year.

Learning the basics will help students in virtually any career—from architecture to mechanics. Just as we teach students how to dissect a frog, or how electricity works, it’s important for every 21st-century student to have a chance to design an app or an algorithm or learn how the Internet works.

Technology is changing so fast, blink an eye and you’ll likely miss it. The importance of programs like Capital One Coders can’t be understated. The program not only gives kids valuable tools for their future but also inspires them to believe that they are capable of building anything.

So instead of waiting around for formal programs to land in schools, Capital One Coders proactively cultivates a child’s interest in computing. I also encourage others to get involved and to share their favorite games, toys, and books that help kids develop computer skills and have a ton of fun in the process.

At a time when every industry in every state is impacted by advances in computer technology, our schools should give all students the opportunity to understand how this technology works, to learn how to be creators, coders, and makers — not just consumers.

You can't be what you can't see, this type of program is changing that.

Thank you to Capital One for sponsoring this post