This month’s spotlight highlights one of our recent grant recipients, Persistence Development Foundation.  Persistence Development Foundation focuses on “improving lives of individuals in underserved communities (geographic and/or economic) in the north Texas region by closing the digital divide and addressing digital literacy issues through computer coding instruction and certification training.”

High Tech High Heels is proud to support the foundation’s out-of-school program, CodeSLAM, which “introduces students to basic web development, app development and game creation.” These programs will further help to expose girls in north Texas to STEM careers and the industry by getting them engaged in coding programs. We talked to Harold Strong, from the foundation to discuss the importance and impact of these coding programs.

We are looking forward to help in making CodeSLAM available and accessible to all girls in north Texas!

Q: How was Persistence Development Foundation started? What inspired the foundation’s mission?

The motivation for Persistence Development Foundation is to assist under resourced families to become digitally engaged and become [part] of the growing digital community.   As the Dallas Smart City initiative is to “leverage technology in becoming an inclusive, connected and efficient city focused on improving the quality of life of our citizens”, PDF’s mission is to improve the lives of individuals in underserved communities (geographic and/or economic) in the north Texas region by closing the digital divide and addressing digital literacy issues through computer coding instruction and certification training.

Q: What drove the need for CodeSLAM programs in north Texas?

The CodeSLAM program began as a tool to assist middle school students to actively participate and engage at the Dallas Park & Recreation Teen Tech Center makerspace without being taught or instructed on how to use the technology in the space.  The basic CodeSLAM program offers three coding experiences including (1) creating a website, (2) creating an app and (3) creating a game in Android and SWIFT environments. This program serves as a great introduction to computer coding and provides a very fast, efficient foundation for future coding experiences.  For the Teen Tech Center, the students were provided coding hints to assist in successfully exploring the fun and power of creating games, social media sites and applications through the use of the provided computing equipment in the center.  As a result, traffic to the Teen Tech Center grew as more students (and neighboring Recreation Centers) added coding as a part of their Rec Center offerings. 

With the success of the initial program, CodeStream Studios refined the program to support [and] accommodate a broader age range as well as broader computer coding skill level.  Over the past school year, we have successfully hosted more than 10 CodeSLAMs with Uplift Education, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas combined.  While the program focuses on social media, app development and game creation, the program has been adjusted to support data from multiple environments. So, at the Dallas Zoo the CodeSLAM program will feature an option of game development, app creation or social media development featuring animals that influence innovation.

With funding from High Tech High Heels, PDF and CodeStream Studios partnered with Frontiers of Flight for a Spring Break ’18 program to support the Young Women’s STEM Leadership Initiative with a vision to increase female students’ interest in STEM-related careers. More than 45 girls from Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Arnold (GPISD) and Young Women’s STEAM Academy at Balch Springs (DISD) participated in the program.  It should be noted that both schools have a high percentage of under-resourced girls. We believe that by providing these students opportunities to view real-world applications of STEM, it will encourage them to push past any boundaries they may encounter as they plan for their future.

The CodeSLAM program was used with MIT App Inventor to create games featuring Dorothy Vaughan and the women who devote their careers to space exploration.

Q: What is the ultimate impact of these programs?

PDF and CodeStream Studios partnered with Frontiers of Flight for a Spring Break ’18 program to support the Young Women’s STEM Leadership Initiative with a vision to increase female students’ interest in STEM-related careers. More than 45 girls from Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Arnold (GPISD) and Young Women’s STEAM Academy at Balch Springs (DISD) participated in the program.  It should be noted that both schools have a high percentage of under-resourced girls. We believe that by providing these students opportunities to view real-world applications of STEM, it encouraged them to push past their boundaries as they plan for their future.

At Jubilee Park Community Center, CodeStream Studios provided an out-of-school coding program during the 2017-18 school year where approximately 25 girls participated in a web development program that used HTML/ CSS and JavaScript to a build a website page for a business. The “graduation” exercise for this coding program was for the participants to present the website that they developed and to walk the audience through their coding technique.  We feel this program provided the students exposure to coding as well as confidence to present to an audience.  But most of all it was fun!