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Education

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Guest Blog: Allenbrook educator and coach of “The Swarm,” Ms. Artrice Johnson

During the 2017-18 school year, thanks to a generous gift from Google Fiber, Digi-Bridge was able to grow The Swarm at Allenbrook Elementary School – a competition programming and robotics squad that’s currently serving thirty scholars. As we head into the end of the academic year, Ms. Johnson, educator and coach, shares her reflections.

When I share my narrative as an educator with people and I mention that I am Robotics coach, many ask, “How did you get into that?” Being asked about the beginning of my ventures in Robotics always helps to remind that no matter how long one has been teaching, there is always room to grow and learn.

Last school year, I joined Allenbrook’s Robotics squad as a way to engage one particular student. She wanted to join the team, but was also interested in joining the step team. Her concern, besides the conflict of schedules of the two teams, was that some of the other students may have thought that she was “not cool”or a “nerd” if they knew she was in Robotics. There were also no other brown girls, to her knowledge, that were joining the Robotics team. Of course, I strongly encouraged her to join despite her fears, but things went a step further when I found out from the facilitator, Torie Leslie, that the squad was in need of another coach and a teacher from the school would be ideal.

I pondered if this was something that I could do – of course my creative abilities had been out to use with Legos before, but I had never built a robot in my life and I didn’t know much about computer programming beyond the very basics! As I faced my own fears of the unknown, I could imagine my student’s face and was also reminded of her fears. I told my student that I was going to join the Robotics team as well, and I shared my concerns with her; I told her that I had never done anything like this and I was worried that I wouldn’t be that a good of a coach, BUT I was willing to give it a try and learn alongside her and the rest of the scholars.

Needless to say, we had a very successful season. We all gained a plethora of knowledge and shared experiences such as competing in the First Lego League Robotics Competition, and attending a Hornets basketball game with the honor of walking on court to receive recognition during half-time. Overall, the most valuable experience was watching the scholars work together as a team and building off of each other’s strengths to be a successful group.

As we are flowing through Robotics this school at year Allenbrook, I can see some of those same characteristics as last year’s group – students are working together in order to build each other up based off their own strengths. For instance, students have been working in pairs – one partner who may find building to be a strength, and one who is more comfortable with coding. From my perspective, this helps all scholars to feel accomplished with tasks that may seem daunting to the other, but all the while they are still learning from each other.

Arrow on Ms. Johnson – a group picture from competition in 2017

Without the gracious gifts from Google Fiber, Allenbrook’s Robotics Club would be nonexistent and our scholars would not have such special opportunities to explore new skills and abilities. We all continue to gain knowledge as a group, and we all are also facing fears of the unknown. Without a doubt we are “swarming” misbeliefs, discomfort, and fears with pride, bravery, and teamwork!

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It’s time for a Daddy Daughter Code-In! Tickets on sale now.

Friends of Digi-Bridge-

It’s with great enthusiasm that I share news of our expanded partnership with Google Fiber Charlotte. This year, in addition to sponsoring The Swarm, our competition programming and robotics team, Google Fiber is the presenting sponsor for four Code-In events!

This first Daddy Daughter Code-In (#DDCodeIn) of 2018 will be held at the Google Fiber Event Space from 7 pm-8:30 pm on Saturday, June 2nd. We will have fun in (and with) the sun. If you’ve attended a Code-In before, expect more of the same great STEAM experiences with a few really AWESOME new additions. Of course, there will be cotton candy.

Only 35 duo tickets available, so snag your tickets today

While we are making progress to ensure women are represented in STEM, a 2017 jobs report reminded us of just how much work needs to be done. We learned that while women fill 47 percent of all U.S. jobs, they only hold about 24 percent of STEM jobs. Likewise, women constitute slightly more than half of college educated workers but make up only 25 percent of college educated STEM workers.

It is stifling statistics like these that Digi-Bridge intends to shift not only to support females, but also to stimulate technology growth on a universal level.

Digi-Bridge is excited to host this community event at Google Fiber’s home here in Charlotte. This evening is an opportunity for young ladies and the important men in their lives (fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, grandfathers, role models, etc.) to connect and explore technology.

Much like a traditional “Daddy Daughter” dance, the Code-In will be an event filled with food, music and fresh tech-centric activities. Digi-Bridge knows that girls code, too, and looks forward to supporting and encouraging the next generation of female leaders in STEM.

Looking forward to seeing dads and daughters on June 2! That link once more is www.digi-bridge.org/events.

Cheers,

DJ

Please know, Digi-Bridge aims to remove all barriers to access. If financial assistance is needed, simply reach out to Torie@digi-bridge.org.

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Guest Blog: Ashley Park 8th Grader Treshawn Pickett

In 2017, Digi-Bridge forged a partnership with Opera Carolina, thanks to support from OrthoCarolina. Together, we developed a Digi-Bin series that goes “Behind the Scenes” to explore STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) connections in opera. 

At the conclusion of the series, scholars attended their first opera performance, The Marriage of Figaro. Below, read reflections from Treshawn, an 8th grade #STEAMSaturdays scholar at Ashley Park PreK-8. 

Before visiting the opera I honestly thought it would be people randomly singing. I also thought it was going to be boring and hard to understand. I was actually impressed that it was very different than what I expected.

During #STEAMSaturdays at Ashley Park, we began diving into some Digi-Bins that had to do with music production. We worked on bins such as costume design, lighting, acting and even production setup. My favorite bins were the costume design and lighting. I could really identify what we were learning to what I want to do in my career. I want to be a fashion designer so it was cool to see how colors and costumes set the mood for different scenes and atmospheres.

The storyline for “The Marriage of Figaro” itself was so interesting. I would have never imagined that I could gather a story from just music and singers. Now that I know more about the opera scenes and what goes on behind stage, I can see myself using this in real life.

It’s really inspiring to see how I can use my love for fashion in so many different ways. I loved

seeing how makeup, costumes, and lighting played such a huge role in the opera and keeps the audience engaged. Those characters with different dresses and more bling were more regal.

I learned that there are so many jobs that go into creating a musical production, and I can put myself in multiple positions from just seeing one opera. I cannot wait to see another one!

Thank you to my teachers, Ms. Hobson and Ms. Newton, for getting us there on time. Thank you Opera Carolina and OrthoCarolina for the opportunity to go behind the scenes!

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NAYGN and Digi-Bridge: Generating STEAM Together!

Friends,

Partnership is a wonderful thing. When we had the pleasure of being introduced to Alyse Scurlock, a nuclear engineer with Duke Energy, we knew someone had connected the dots because of our mutual passion for STEAM education.

Thanks to Alyse and the support of Duke Energy, we have partnered with NAYGN (the North American Young Generation in Nuclear), a program filled with bright young scientists and engineers in the field of nuclear energy. The organization works to develop professionals who can become leadership figures that inspire others and inform the public about nuclear. This work aligns beautifully with our mission to prepare a generation of 21st century learners with STEAM education!

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On Wednesday night (June 7th), we had the pleasure of joining the group at their img_4665conference dinner that brought together a group of regional scientists and engineers on the beautiful vista of the Duke Energy Center. The young scientists learned a little about what we do at Digi-Bridge and engaged with us throughout the evening in various activities that help us to serve K-8 scholars.

By the end of the night our table had two impressive stacks of paper, one was of the scientists’ favorite experiments that we could adapt for use in our Digi-Bin curriculum, the other was of heartfelt letters written to our scholars encouraging them to consider a pathway to a career in STEAM. The table also got a lot more colorful with the addition of donated LEGO sets! We were truly touched by the generosity of these STEAM professionals.

The next day we were invited to visit the Nuclear Takeover at Discovery Place. The NAYGN team had set up several stations with hands–on activities for the young visitors to explore the world of nuclear energy. From gamma radiation to circuitry to chain reactions, scholars were exploring and learning and having a blast.

We would like to thank Alyse, Duke Energy and NAYGN for this opportunity and for their commitment to the 21st century. Together, we will create pathways for our future scientists, technologists, engineers, artists and mathematicians. Let’s continue this work and #bridgethedivide!

Cheers,

DJ

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#CSforAll: Digi-Bridge Goes to the White House

Dear friends,

On Tuesday, Digi-Bridge was honored to join the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to announce our commitment to meeting the President’s call for Computer Science for All (#CSforAll).

As part of our commitment, we are excited to launch #STEAMSaturdays series introducing scholars to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) disciplines in a safe environment at sites throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg this fall. We will also continue to carry out Daddy-Daugher Code-ins (#DDCodeins) in partnership with Google Fiber.

However, the work of #CSforall requires more committed private-public partnerships to reach the finish line. Particularly in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where we know that 70,000 children do not have internet access at home, and where economic mobility is ranked 50th out of 50 in major US cities, now is a critical time to support this work.

The US Science and Technology Council inspired us with the challenge that #CSforAll is completely possible. Coding IS the new 21st century literacy.

To make a meaningful difference in the life of a Digi-Bridge scholar, click here to make a gift in support of this critical work. A gift of any size will help provide an educational experience that ultimately opens the door to economic mobility for K-8 scholar.

To reach out with interest in sponsoring a #STEAMSaturdays series, or to underwrite a Daddy-Daughter Code-In (#DDCodein), contact Holly Martin at holly@digi-bridge.org.

To support Digi-Bridge as a volunteer, click here to share your interest with us.

Thank you for your valued support in the work as together we #bridgethedivide!

Cheers!

DJ

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Digi-Bridge Announces Commitment at White House Summit

Digi-Bridge is announcing its commitment today at the White House’s Computer Science for All Summit, which event can be viewed via livestream wh.gov/live from 1-3 p.m.

The Summit celebrates progress and announces new commitments towards the President’s historic call for Computer Science (CS) for All. Digi-Bridge is dedicated to supporting a generation of well-equipped 21st century learners through the provision of computer science education.

“We believe our approach is effective and measurable,” said Digi-Bridge Founder David Jessup. “We look forward to continuing CS for all through the development of private-public partnerships.”

In January, President Obama issued a historic call to action for public, private and nonprofit organizations to support his efforts to expand computer science education for all American children.

In support of the President’s call to action, Digi-Bridge has developed and will continue efforts to broaden access to its signature educational programming including #STEAMSaturdays and Daddy Daughter Code-Ins introducing K-8 scholars to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) disciplines.

Without dedicated state funding for computer science professional development or K-12 curriculum standards in North Carolina, Digi-Bridge is leading statewide efforts to engage public and private stakeholders to enact solutions, Jessup said.

“This issue hits close to home in North Carolina,” Jessup said. “In our state alone an estimated 17,824 computer science jobs remain unfilled, yet North Carolina produces only 1,224 graduates in this field annually. We are grateful for the recognition of the White House around needed partnership in this important work.”

In continuance of this work, Digi-Bridge will deliver #STEAMSaturdays courses to more than 500 K-8 scholars at eight sites in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in 2016-17. These courses introduce both teachers and students to computer science on Saturday mornings.

“Community partners, including The OrthoCarolina Foundation, will allow Digi-Bridge to extend these experiences free of charge to students living in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Jessup noted.

Digi-Bridge has introduced a full-time STEAM Community Catalyst to support the development of a model K-12 computer science program in Title I schools during the academic year. The Catalyst role, through a partnership between the public and private sector, will allow stakeholders to innovatively approach design and delivery of resources and support.

Digi-Bridge additionally will host Daddy Daughter Code-Ins in partnership with Google Fiber introducing school-age girls and their fathers or male role models to coding in a welcoming environment.

The White House Fact Sheet (view here) describes Digi-Bridge’s programming.

Today’s Summit, as part of Back to School Week, will be livestreamed this afternoon from 1-3 p.m. (EST) at: http:/www.whitehouse.gov/live. Follow the digital conversation: #CSforall.

Media Contacts: David Jessup, david@digi-bridge.orgCorri Smith, corri@blackwednesday.social

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Digi-Bridge Announces $50,000 Gift from OrthoCarolina Foundation

Digi-Bridge is pleased to announce a $50,000 gift from OrthoCarolina Foundation in support of Digi-Bridge’s Full STEAM Ahead programming at Ashley Park PreK-8 in 2016-17.

The OrthoCarolina Foundation gift will allow Digi-Bridge to launch an innovative pilot STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education program at Ashley Park, a federally designated Title I elementary school serving more students in poverty than any other in the district.

“We are so pleased OrthoCarolina is committed to investing in schools like Ashley Park,” said Digi-Bridge Founder David Jessup Jr. “OrthoCarolina is a trusted community leader whose commitment will accelerate the pace at which Ashley Park students advance academically and socially.”

Digi-Bridge’s Full STEAM Ahead is a yearlong initiative that will increase the number of students served through #STEAMSaturdays, its signature science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics courses, while simultaneously testing new, STEAM-centric approaches to teaching and learning.

Under the leadership of Ashley Park Principal Meaghan Loftus, the school continashley parkues to show tremendous gains across all disciplines.

“The provision of opportunity for our scholars who are performing at or above grade-level is a next critical step in our work,” Loftus said. “These scholars can be short-changed in attention and resource, so opportunities like #STEAMSaturdays for eighth grade scientists is critical to the individual and collective success of Ashley Park.”

Full STEAM Ahead, fueled by OrthoCarolina, will allow Digi-Bridge provide 100 Ashley Park PreK-8 scholars with #STEAMSaturdays learning modules, as well as launch a pilot cohort model for a group of eighth graders and provide professional development to select faculty and staff.

“OrthoCarolina is committed to funding educational initiatives and partnering with organizations improving and empowering the infrastructure of the region,” said Blair Primis, vice president of marketing, OrthoCarolina. “A collective approach to providing access and opportunity for Ashley Park students will undoubtedly yield an impressive return.”

Nonprofit organization Digi-Bridge was founded in 2014 with the audacious vision of bridging the technology gap for underserved students and their teachers to ensure students have the skills to succeed in the digital age.

“Digi-Bridge is committed to providing the highest quality enrichment experiences to the K-8 scholars we serve,” Jessup said. “We identified Saturday mornings as a time when programming would be supported, and as a result, we launched our #STEAMSaturdays pilot project in 2015. #STEAMSaturdays offerings have grown rapidly and become the focal point of our efforts due to strong community interest in K-8 computer science education and 21st century skill acquisition.”

Expanding from five locations in its initial year of programming, Digi-Bridge will offer #STEAMSaturdays programming in nine locations in 2016-2017, including cohorts at Allenbrook Elementary, Ashley Park PreK-8, C3 Lab, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, MAX! and Renaissance West Community Initiative.

“Digi-Bridge is grateful for the visionary leadership of community partners such as OrthoCarolina in support of teachers and students,” Jessup said. “Together, we will #bridgethedivide at Ashley Park PreK-8.”

Program inquiries can be directed to David Jessup at david@digi-bridge.org.

Media inquiries can be directed to Corri Smith at corri@blackwednesday.social.

David Jessup

Girls Code Too: #DDCodein a Hit!

Dear friends,

Google Fiber’s new home by First Ward Park was full of laughter, cotton candy and robots as dads and daughters enjoyed a special night out to explore coding and robotics together at Digi-Bridge’s first Daddy Daughter Code-In Aug. 18.

Digi-Bridge was pleased to present this inaugural community event at Google Fiber’s Charlotte home. This evening, made possible by Fiber, was an opportunity for K-8 girls and their dads, or male role models, to connect and explore technology. Much like a traditional daddy daughter dance, the Code-In was filled with food, music and exciting technology-centric activities.

I’d like to share with you a note we received from a mother after #DDCodein:

“I was so happy to see the event that I sent it to my husband right away, and I’m so glad he signed up. My daughter had a ball last night. My husband said he saw her in her element. She was leading / teaching him when constructing the Lego Scratch activity. He loved seeing her so confident in her own work. That one activity has greatly affected how he feels about her middle/high school education choices.”

We know that although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) jobs. Only one-fifth of computer science degrees in this country are awarded to women. It is
stifling statistics like these that Digi-Bridge intends to shift not only to support women, but also to stimulate technology growth on a universal level.

Digi-Bridge knows that girls code, too, and is supporting and encouraging the next generation of female leaders in STEM. By engaging the community through events like the Code-In, I know that we can bridge the divide. I am grateful that our friends at Fiber prioritize this most important work.

Our first event sold out in under one day and we have already begun a wait list for the next #DDCodein! Stay tuned!

Cheers,

DJ

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#STEAMSummer Reflections

Dear friends,

I invite you to learn more about #STEAMSummer from Torie Leslie, our STEAM Community Catalyst. -DJ

With the start of the 2016-2017 school year right around the corner, I think of those beginning-of-the-year icebreakers when teachers and students share their summer experiences. This year I would have the best story to tell sharing the amazing summer I spent with 28 scholars in our first ever #STEAMSummer experience. We spent four weeks living in the acronym letters of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics).

Week one we explored graphic ARTS using Google Slides, TurtleArt and Scratch programming. I was introduced to young graphic designers as I watched students digitally design T-shirt logos and create spirals of colorful art using TurtleArt.20160721_092345

During week two we tested our ENGINEERING skills with a daily “contraptions” challenge with paper rockets, egg drop carriers, foil boats and spaghetti towers. It was the best use of 20 rolls of Scotch tape, 3 rolls of aluminum foil and 200 pennies ever!

Week three we used routine household products to complete SCIENCE experiments using everyday MATH. We made fireworks in a jar, Kool-Aid playdough, Alka-Seltzer rockets, melted crayon art and our own bubble solution. 

Week four we used MIT Scratch and LEGO WeDo kits to build complex LEGO robots. This combination of ENGINEERING and TECHNOLOGY brought out some of the most complex LEGO robots I’ve seen.

Each week at #STEAMSummer, students used a portion of their day to nurture their own STEAM project. Most days, students wanted to extend our class lesson, which let me know that we correctly targeted their likes.

We welcomed each other every morning during community time and challenged ourselves to be smarter, humble and supportive during our daily reflection time. After working hard, we would always play hard!! Each week, kids LOVED going outside to shoot some hoops, race on spooner boards or make up games in the play area.

You never know what single experience sparks the light of hope, opportunity, creativity or encouragement in a child. As an educator, my job is to provide as many instances where that can occur as possible. The added bonus is when this spark turns into a fire or even an inferno which directs that child into a lifelong passion.20160718_133305_720

I’m proud of being a part of #STEAMSummer, where I saw the spark in EVERY child we worked with. Thanks to the support of friends like you who gave to #ActivateSummer, we were able to serve more scholars than ever this year. I’m confident these scholars will continue to grow, with your help, and hope I’ll be able to help harness the passion we found in them.

In my ideal world I could replicate the same nurturing, learning, independent project, technology-infused atmosphere year round…But wait, I can in our #STEAMSaturday experience! Bring it on!!

-Torie Leslie, STEAM Community Catalyst

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We Made It!

Dear friends,

The dust has settled and I’m happy to report the first iMakeCLT was a tremendous success!

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Over 800 of our neighbors walked through the doors of C3 Lab during the Saturday event.

iMakeCLT, through the tremendous collaboration of makers throughout Charlotte, provided a temporary space for neighbors to meet and children 0-99 to make, break and fix together. Our hope is that the event inspired many future innovators.

This inaugural event was inspired by a placemaking microgrant from Historic South End and powered by UTC Aerospace Systems.

Partners included the amazing folks of C3 Lab, April Marten studios and Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Idea Box. Additional support came from 3D Systems, Charlotte Community Toolbank and Lowe’s.

Thank you to our dedicated, amazing volunteers. Without you this amazing community event would not have been possible.

And a big thanks to all our makers!

Additional good news – we raised $491 in support of our #activatesummer campaign. (There’s still time to give. Click here to support.)

The future of #making is bright in Charlotte!

Cheers,

DJ