by Shannon Landin
Impacting the computer science education and future opportunities for 150+ students, their teachers, and their families weekly made January 2016 a very good start to the 3rd year of Codecraft Lab’s mission-driven technology lab for students in Florida! Now in January 2017, before leaping ahead in the new year, reflecting on the successes and obstacles provides joy and insight.
Codecraft Lab’s first high school US CyberPatriot teams qualified to participate in our state round competition! It was a new and exciting time for us, taking a deep dive into the world of cyber security education and competition. Oh, yeah!!
Codecraft Lab went to Tallahassee with love to bolster STE(A)M education and advocate for expanding summer learn-to-code programs in partnership with Domi Education and Florida A&M University Developmental Research School in February. The Codecraft Lab CyberPatriot team advanced to the Gold Tier regional open division round and placed 3rd in the XCEL-IT Tech Challenge at Eastern Florida State College!!
In March, Codecraft Lab hosted its first security workshops in partnership with Hack All the Things and launched the 1st Annual Codecraft Computer Programming Competition (CCPC). Over 100 students from Brevard county participated in the CCPC, 15+ software engineers and technology professionals volunteered their time to judge the competition, and 10 Florida Companies provided financial support.
The CCPC award ceremony was held at Codecraft Lab on April 29th and was very well attended. Talk about a packed house! The entire competition was highly reviewed by students, families, and teachers leading to new and exciting growth for 2017.
Meagan Bonnell, now the director of Codecraft Lab of Tallahassee, visited Melbourne that same week to learn about sharing her passion for computer programming, problem-solving, and girl power with the kids back home in Leon County. She worked with local supporters in Melbourne and Tallahassee to successfully launch a massive summer of code in Florida’s state capital.
In May of 2016 Hahna Latonick visited Codecraft Lab and her passion for early technical education and for entrepreneurship united! Hahna clearly shared the Codecraft Lab vision for empowering students, impacting communities, and bolstering the nation’s future which quickly inspired the next chapter in her life. May also brought the Codecraft Camp programs in Melbourne to full capacity for a 3rd consecutive year, leaving little doubt that the Space Coast holds a passion for more than just rocket science. Graduation ceremonies, bittersweet tears, and new beginnings — Springtime indeed!
June and July will be known as the summer of Pokemon Go. Augmented reality hit the app store and Eau Gallie main street. The kids were all about it, even a few adults too!
With months of planning, a collective 16 weeks of summer camps launched across three locations for 300+ students, reaching boys and girls, both privileged and under-served. Codecraft Lab connected, impacted, inspired and empowered kids, families, and communities IRL.
The teaching lineup at our camps was top-notch! Hahna Latonick joined the team and shared her five-star experience, education, and credentials in complement with other inspiring and talented instructors. Check these awesome blogs about the Python and the Game Makers camps.
Back to school in August marked another big season for the Lab with new schedules, new after-school programs, and new school clubs. UCF reached out to connect the CCPC and SECME for a regional trial in the state of Florida. The Orlando Science Center sent an amazing group of students to learn the basics of computer programming and summer at the Lab was HOT!
In early September, the lab and clubs were in full swing again. In addition to the veteran school club leaders at Gemini, Indialantic, Sabal, and Surfside we were delighted to welcome Mrs. Watson and her students at Suntree to the family. Many talented and consistent volunteers continued to support our community and mentor students, making a difference in the quality of delivery and mentoring relationships built.
A HUGE thank you to all of them, including (but not limited to) Cameron Burrows in Game Maker, Sandy Stuteville in Getting Started, Brandon Stepler and Chris Struttmann in CyberPatriot, Kevin Fujimoto in Python, Nakeya Adams in Takeover Thursday, and Gil Creque in Thursday Things. Jenna B and the Groundswell team, Debra Haar Clark, Susan Winkler, Bridget Ehlers, Boone Arthur, Liz Cowie, Juliette Mondesir Adams, Kevin Latonick, and Josh Landin were also on hand and usually behind the scene to lend support, share their time, or create needed resources. #priceless
October and November allowed us to continue advocating for more STEAM education, early and often, for every kid with incredible results!! Hahna worked some magic and the team hit a nice growth stride. We never expect students or teachers to be expert programmers by the end of any experience, although we have been surprised and inspired many times over at the success so many have found. Instead, we strive to ignite a spark in them so that they will want more – and feel confident in trying. We are creating problem solvers and critical thinkers, armed with real world skills. Exposing young people to “behind-the-curtain” workings of how even a simple video game is made, maybe students won’t look at that mesmerizing content coming from their smartphones, tablets, or computers in the same way again. Last but not least, Meagan Bonnell, Micah Widen and Lucas Lindsey at Domi assist with a Codecraft Lab partnership with Tallahassee community centers and Florida Blue!
In the last month of 2016, I personally spent a lot of time in reflection and preparation. This was a great year, filled with many gifts, unconditional happiness, and gratitude for these gifts that provides me with a non-stop source of inspiration and energy! New team members and collaborators working to champion STEAM problem solving, specifically computer science and Cybersecurity in front of students, on SAC committees, PTOs, at home, and from their corporate offices give me much hope for the future. Codecraft Lab’s new faces of cyber and US CyberPatriot teams continue to dominate and improve, in preparation for the January State round.
There’s a new nonprofit leadership board taking shape at Codecraft Lab in January 2017 including newly elected board chairman Christopher Struttmann of ALTR, Vice Chair Juliette Mondesir Adams of Rockwell Collins, continuing Treasurer Susan Winkler of IBM, and Secretary Liz Cowie of Liz Cowie Photography. I’m confident these folks will continue to inspire and empower the foundational ideas of this mission-driven organization.
As I continue my adventure with Codecraft Works, I’m honored to serve as a dedicated volunteer and STEM champion for this critical nonprofit. I wholly believe it’s mission-driven focus, and I know that this charitable work is critical to expanding access for all students and closing the STEM education gap.
Closing the chapter on 2016, we together have literally impacted hundreds of our future leaders providing mentorship, practical experience, and critical technical confidence that will make a difference in our shared future and communities. Our collective community effort will no doubt empower and assist a growing number of young people, and their teachers, with the modern skills and the human network needed to achieve big dreams.
Bring it on 2017!! Another 365, please.