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Educational Coursework

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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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Summer #STEAMSaturdays are Just Around the Corner!

Friends,
We at Digi-Bridge are preparing to kick off our Summer #STEAMSaturdays in three different locations. It’s a very exciting time for us and img_3760we want to make sure you have the chance to be a part of our growing efforts to #bridgethedivide.
Registration is still open and will remain open throughout our Summer series as you are now able to register for each class individually. We want our STEAM enrichment to be available to your family no matter what your Summer holds!
As always, in addition to advancing through our coding portal, scholars will have an opportunity to engage in hands-on STEAM activities. Here is a preview of our Summer offerings from our BodyWorks series as well as a special bonus from Careers in the Arts:

May 6th – Analyzing our Airways

May 13th- Moving with Muscles

May 20th- Seeing Eye to Eye

May 27th- The Blood Within Us

June 3rd- Cruising through the Kidneys

June 10th- DJ Bin (pulse, beats, and beat combination) *Hygge West and Birkdale only

Here again are all the details and the link to register:
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Locations : Hygge Coworking West, Advent Coworking, and Birkdale Offices

Dates : Six Saturdays from May 6 – June 10
(Five Saturdays, May 6 – June 3 at Advent Coworking)
 
Time : 9 – 10:30 am
Cost : $25 per Saturday
Register now on our site by clicking here.
 
Feel free to reach out to Kelly@digi-bridge.org with any questions.
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.

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#STEAMSaturdays Return to C3 Lab

Dear friends,

#STEAMSaturdays are back at C3 Lab!  Join for a fun morning of exploration and innovation!  Your K-8 scholar will be introduced to a variety of object-oriented computer programming (coding) languages.  The personalized learning platform allows individuals to move at their own pace, making this course valuable for learners of all levels.

Classes are from 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and the fee is $50/course. Registration for all five courses is $225 (save $25).

Course dates: Saturdays, Sept. 24, Oct. 1, 8, 15 & 22

“This is perfect opportunity to unlock the inner scientist/engineer in every child,” says Torie Leslie, STEAM Community Catalyst.

For more information or for questions, please contact torie@digi-bridge.org.

To register, click here.

In education,

DJ

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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#STEAMSummer Special Visitor

This week at #STEAMSummer at Kent Academy, scholars were joined by a special guest, Julia Landauer, multiple-championship winning racecar driver.

Landauer, who in addition to racing every season since she was 10, graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a bachelor of science degree in Science, Technology, and Society.

Scholars presented a range of inquiries to Landauer, including how to pronounce her name (it’s Land-Hour), but one question was particularly poignant.

“Is it lonely being the only girl?” asked Givonne, age 8.File_002

Landauer, one of few women in a male-dominated sport, is the first female NASCAR Track Champion in her division at Motor Mile Speedway. She studied science and technology to help her gain a competitive edge in racing.

She advocates for women in STEM professions, where women are sharply underrepresented. Minority women make up an even smaller segment of these workers.

This week at #STEAMSummer, Givonne is the only girl in her class.

While this is not always the case at summer camp, we know statistically, it’s not far from reality. Women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, but hold less than 25 percent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs, despite the fact that these jobs give them a steep advantage in wages.

In response to Givonne’s question, Landauer advised: “If you love it, stick with it. Make friends, and look for similarities, not differences.”

“I’m aware that I’m a role model, especially to women, and I really hope to show that you can be a strong, competent, passionate woman doing something really difficult and that’s something people look up to and admire and respect,” Landauer says in a video on her website.

We are grateful for Landauer’s time and energy in forging a path for those traditionally underrepresented in STEAM professions.

If you would like to join the effort to #bridgethedivide, consider giving to Digi-Bridge’s #ActivateSummer campaign.

With your support, we have extended scholarships to families from throughout Charlotte. Additional contributions will allow us to provide more scholars with access this summer!

Click here to contribute. A gift of any size makes a difference!

Let’s make sure that every scholar has access to high-quality 21st century education.

With gratitude,

DJ

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Thank You, Charlotte!

Last night, I stood in the spotlight in front of an audience of 800 in the Knight Theater. I had just 3 minutes to pitch the Digi-Bus, a mobile learning lab that will ensure equal digital learning resources for our neighbors.

Sharing the stage, nine other Charlotte nonprofit leaders pitched their best ideas to make our city better as part of the SEED20 class of 2016. Together, we received coaching that will make us better as organizations and better together as part of the nonprofit community in Charlotte.

What an honor. I congratulate the SEED20 winners, including fellow Teach for America alum Ian Joyce of Gen-One who secured the evening’s top award.

SEED20 is an amazing part of what Charlotte is and what it’s becoming. Founded five years ago with the vision to support emerging nonprofits with coaching and funding, this visionary project of Social Venture Partners is transforming the landscape of our city and our community.

Being a part of the SEED20 2016 class is a tremendous honor, and I want to thank the sponsors and coaches for your time and attention to make it possible. Thank you for your investment in emerging Charlotte nonprofits.

We’re poised to #bridgethedivide and mobilize the Digi-Bus with tremendous community support. Thank you for all of you who sat in the audience, tweeted and came to offer hugs and high fives as we strategize to make this a reality for the next generation of learners.

Charlotte, we are better together. All aboard!

DJ