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1024 768 David Jessup

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!

940 909 David Jessup

Look what YOU did!

Friends of Digi-Bridge,

At our summer board meeting, I said “let’s raise $10,000 during our End of Year Giving Campaign,” and the room went silent.

This weekend, while snowed in, I sat in front of an Excel spreadsheet, entered the last few check amounts and I started belting out Notorious B.I.G. lyrics (not suitable for mom or dad). The room was still silent, though this time my dogs were looking at me like I had completely lost it.

YOU showed up in November and December–committing your time, talent and treasure to our organization. YOU helped us to raise $10,820 in just six short weeks. Some of you served as social media influencers, others donated time stuffing envelopes and many of you shared your personal treasure in support of our efforts to #bridgethedivide.

2016 was a remarkable year for Digi-Bridge:

  • In March, Digi-Bridge was named a Playing for Others honoree for 2016-17.
  • In April, Digi-Bridge took the SEED20 stage.
  • In June, we co-hosted #iMakeCLT at C3 Lab, inspired by a placemaking microgrant from Historic South End and powered by UTC Aerospace.
  • In August, we held our first Daddy Daughter Code-In (#DDCodeIn) at Google Fiber.
  • In September, Digi-Bridge received the largest grant ever gifted by the OrthoCarolina Foundation.
  • Also in September, Digi-Bridge was honored by the White House Office of Science and Technology for our commitment to Computer Science for All (#CSforAll).
  • In October, I took the TEDxCharlotte stage sharing an idea for the 21st century learner.
  • In November, we became a Social Venture Partners investee and received gifts from Reemprise Fund and Knight Foundation.

2017 is here and I find myself silent quite frequently. My family and Digi-Bridge staff have all noted this marked change. I’m taking the time to celebrate progress and reflect on the road ahead. We’ve got work to do, but together, I’m absolutely certain we will get it done. Look what YOU did in just a few weeks.

Enjoy the silence, it won’t last for long. It’s about time for us to accelerate these efforts on behalf of our future scientists, technologists, engineers, artists and mathematicians. 

Much love and gratitude,

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

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