The “Sputnik Crisis” was triggered by the launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, on October 4, 1957 from what is now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It stirred within the American people a sense that they had fallen behind the Soviet Union technologically, and in the “race for space.”
But Americans didn’t panic. In short order, they created the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA. Less than a year after the launch of Sputnik, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act. It was a four-year program that poured billions into the U.S. education system.
Within a decade, the U.S. had launched the first human into space. We landed on the moon in 1969. The U.S. has dominated space exploration ever since. Countless technological innovations sprung from that period, from Tang to the World Wide Web.
2017 represents a new Sputnik moment. The American workforce is at risk of being left behind. The next century will be one dominated by information technology.
If American workers are not equipped with the skills required to succeed in our technology-based future, we risk falling permanently behind in a variety of ways. It is time for America to accept the challenge of the next century and put the same level of effort that followed Sputnik into preparing its workforce for the 21st century.
Astronauts will land on Mars, but it is the computer scientists who will get them there.
The most important education policy challenge we face in America today is improving access to computer science education. Only a fraction of our school districts, mainly in Silicon Valley, have integrated full-blown computer science education into their regular for-credit curriculum. Our foundation and many others are actively advocating for the completion of this integration as quickly as possible, but Congress has been slow to act.
Until then, Code4Life is a first of its kind after-school program developed by our charitable arm, the Economic Growth DC Foundation, in partnership with Accenture. It teaches basic computer programming skills to middle-school students. As good as the program may be, it is a crude substitute for the full-scale integration of computer science education into the regular for-credit curriculum. Until national policymakers and our patchwork of local school-districts across the country get serious about the integration, programs like Code4Life will play an important role in experimenting with best practices.
Our program is designed to impart to middle-school students the basic computer programming and development skills that will provide them with the tools and the confidence to pursue a career in computer science.
While many of our participants will pursue undergraduate degrees, there are numerous career paths within computer science that provide an opportunity to earn a middle-class living that do not require a four-year degree. Our program is designed to provide a foundation from which a career in computer science can be built.
The program began in September of 2014 with one classroom and 15 students at KIPP NE Academy in Trinidad. When our Spring 2017 semester begins in March, we will be operating in 14 classrooms in 10 schools with over 200 children participating in the program.
One of the problems with computer science in America today is its lack of diversity. About 90% of all computer scientists are white males. Our program requires that at least 50% of the participants at each of our schools are girls and the vast majority of our participants are African-American or Latino.
Accenture volunteers teach Module One at KIPP NE Academy
How It Works
The class meets for two hours after school, one day per week, for 8 consecutive weeks in each semester.
The program is designed for students to remain with us working on progressively more complex programming throughout their middle school careers.
We teach four different curricula we call Modules each semester. Technical staff at Accenture developed the curriculum for Module One based on a programming language developed at the University of California at Berkeley called SNAP. It’s a visually oriented entry-level programming language designed to introduce students to programming for the first time.
Module Two is an HTML and CSS class that was developed by IT staff at George Washington University that teaches participants how to code basic websites. Module Three is an introduction to big data and data analytics developed by Accenture, and Module Four introduces students to smartphone app development using a language developed at MIT.
A Code4Life student presents her final project
Code4Life is funded by a fee paid by each school per classroom per semester. While these fees cover most of our expenses, we are constantly raising money to support our expansion and curriculum development. To support Code4Life financially, simply click the “Contribute” button at the top of the page. The Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity. Your contribution is fully tax-deductible as a charitable gift. If you like to learn more about the benefits of supporting Code4Life, contact our executive director, Dave Oberting, at email@example.com.
If you’d like to bring Code4Life to your school, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some links to recent news coverage of Code4Life:
Click below to see Code4Life featured on the Harris’ Heroes segment of a recent ABC7 broadcast: