It Pays to be a Nerd: Code Crew Teaches Kids to Create Technology
Students learn iOS development using Apple’s Swift Playground at a recent Code Crew event in Memphis, Tenn. Code Crew serves about 170 kids on a weekly basis, 90% of whom are black and Latino and 41% of whom are girls.
It wasn’t always cool to be a geek or a nerd. These terms used to conjure images of small hats topped with propellers, large glasses and pocket protectors. Being labeled a geek or a nerd in today’s world is largely considered a compliment. Think Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs.
The Labor Department expects tech jobs to grow at a rate of 12 percent this decade, faster than the rate for all jobs combined. This is precisely the reason why software developer Meka Egwuekwe started a non-profit organization called Code Crew.
“The lucrative careers of the 21st century are heavily based on computing and computer technology,” Egwuekwe said.
Eqwuekwe, along with Code Crew co-founders Audrey Jones and Petya Grady, set out in 2015 to provide every child with access to a quality computer science education. Based in Memphis, Code Crew serves demographics that are some of the most underrepresented and underserved in the computer science field today.
“Some cities can get away with just white and Asian males doing this work,” Egwuekwe said. “(Memphis) can’t if we expect to be prosperous. If we figure out how to get diverse backgrounds into technology as producers, we can show the rest of the country how to do this.”
Code Crew serves about 170 kids on a weekly basis, 90% of whom are black and Latino and 41% of whom are girls. The students range from 5th to 10th grade and are taught how to build mobile apps, the basics of web development, coding and much more.
At a recent Hour of Code event, Egwuekwe and a host of volunteers used Apple’s Swift Playground to introduce 40 or so students to iOS development.
Egwuekwe noted that while most of the kids know how to use smartphones and iPads, they don’t have the skills to create new technology.
“Kids are not being encouraged enough in school to be producers of technology. They are very comfortable as consumers of technology. You give them a device and in minutes and seconds they know how to use it. That’s not good enough.”
Kareem Dasilda volunteered to help instruct the students at the Hour of Code event. He explained that while many of the kids hadn’t been exposed to Swift Playground or coding, they were quick to engage and eager to learn.
“Only one of the kids had ever used Swift Playground,” Dasilda said. “They all blew through the exercises very quickly. It was natural to them, and they picked it up very quickly. Swift Playground is really immersive. When these kids actually see a Mac Book with XCode running it and using Swift, they’ll know ‘I did this before’.”
While Dasilda said he loves to see new faces at Code Crew events, he has also been excited to see kids coming back to learn more.
“They’re growing with us,” he said. “When they get to college, they are going to be brilliant. If we do a good job, maybe they’ll stay in Memphis.”
Code Crew has received support from FedEx and several other organizations in the Memphis area. In addition to funding, Code Crew relies on volunteers like Dasilda to lead and instruct the kids and to share their experiences. To learn more about Code Crew. visit http://www.code-crew.org/.
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