According to stats released by Google, 51 percent of Black students and 47 percent of Hispanic students dont have access to computer science (CS) classes in school. The company hopes to change those numbers through Code Next.
An effort to identify and nurture the next generation of Black and Hispanic tech leaders, the Oakland-based initiative is a curriculum designed to help students develop an interest in CS, and ultimately provide access to the possibilities of obtaining jobs in the 21st century tech economy.
Code Next aims to create aha! moments that connect computer science to students everyday lives. Its funded entirely by Google, and free for all participants. Partner organizations, such as Black Girls Code and local middle schools, nominate students to join, and the fun and culturally-relevant curriculum focuses on general CS concepts. Participants drive their own projects such as designing and programming a robot and 3D printing an Android chess set and after months of learning, become creators of technology that they can share with their community, Nilka Thomas, Googles Director of Diversity & Inclusion, says of the program.
Code Next represents yet another move, in one of several, that Google has made recently to help bridge the digital divide. In the spring, the company partnered with Black Girls Rock! to launch Made with Code, an initiative designed to inspire teenage girls to consider computer science as a major. And in July, Google gifted Oakland-based Black Girls Code teaching space worth $2.8 million in its NYC headquarters.
For Code Next’s part, a pilot program was established in January and is now moving into its dedicated space – a 1500 square foot lab built in collaboration with MIT Media Lab, The Unity Council and Kurani design. There are even plans to expand the program to include a space in Harlem come 2017. Until then, Thomas says, area students can take classes at Googles New York headquarters.
We selected Oakland and Harlem based on density of the target student population and commitment to CS education at both the grassroots and partner levels. In the long term, our goal is to open-source the curriculum to educators everywhere, she notes.
Thomas continues, During my visits to the pilot program, I was humbled by the participants questions, focus and commitment. Looking out over a crowd of 30 young people coding, white-boarding, and 3D printing all while celebrating each others company convinced me that Code Next has power to transform both our industry and the communities in which we live.