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Codecraft Lab Founder Discusses Community-Based Coding Initiative for Kids

on December 7, 2016 / by Dana Fletcher ,


In July 2013, Shannon Landin launched Codecraft Lab, Brevard County’s first technology-themed lab for students ages 8 to 18. Her goal was to create a space that offers young students a comfortable space to learn, collaborate, and explore new ways to thrive in today’s digital world.

By delivering curriculum and opportunities through hands-on STE(A)M powered projects and meaningful mentor relationships, Codecraft Lab enables kids to learn computer science and computer programming concepts using powerful play to result in powerful learning.

I had the privilege of speaking with Shannon following our Palm Beach Tech MeetupWomen in Technology event. We discussed her passion for empowering today’s children with code, her journey to successful startup, as well as her perspective on creating more inclusive tech communities.

Q: What is the inspiration behind Codecraft Lab?

2015-07-06-13-28-10-2My kids! A few years ago I noticed my kids making less eye contact, creating fewer things, and generally more apathetic about getting involved in extracurricular activities.

As spring break ended that year, I was talking to my kids about camp options and staying engaged during the summer. My son was not interested in any of the available, traditional, camp options and suggested instead that he be allowed to go to math camp.

After some research I was unable to find a math camp for his age or stage. That little problem and my mommy passion for supporting my kids coupled with my own technical experience inspired me to build something better.

Codecraft Lab was born that summer bringing kids together to learn the basics of computer science, programming, and engineering and making the digital things most meaningful to them.

 

Q: What were some unexpected obstacles and barriers you faced in the startup phase? How did you overcome them?

They say that time waits for no man, and turns out entrepreneurship is more than a full-time job!

I’ve missed more than a couple important family events or award ceremonies, and more than a few of my savings goals. My father passed away and my business partner battled cancer – I knew there would be obstacles but, the intersection of personal and business life as an entrepreneur is more visceral than I expected.

To overcome the obstacles of life, I’ve focused on my unending passion for what I’m giving every day and unconditional love from, and for, my family. I’ve learned to dance in the rain.

I see student success and empowerment first hand, I feel the community interest, engagement, and support and I delight in my incredible family, friends, and team at Codecraft Lab. My husband, 3 kids and the best dog ever make it easy to bounce back after hard days. Plus, Florida is a pretty great place to live and to launch a business.

 

…What were some unexpected victories?

Various and growing customer validation from some surprising places!

liz-cowie-photography-gettingready-34When students win the science fair or engage in computer programming competitions, that’s incredibly rewarding and literally a win. We started out as a B to C-org and working with the end clients firsthand gave me a huge amount of insight into what the consumers want from the platform and course curriculum.

Somewhat unexpectedly, I’ve been surprised and delighted to find ways to partner with public schools and business to also produce results and impact.

The growth of Codecraft clubs, camps, and labs through partnership is a victory for everyone!

 

Q: How do you think Codecraft Lab has benefitted the community?

Our impact is twofold. First, and more obviously, we are impacting students and parents simply because computer science isn’t widely taught in our schools. School principals and superintendents tell us that fewer than half of all schools offer computer science classes.

Less understood by some is the impact we are having on businesses and future economy.
Employers already need workers that understand not only how to use technology, but how to create and manipulate it but they are extremely hard to find.

Since its beginning, I’ve seen some wildly inspiring and remarkable student work. Examples include creative and hilarious games that simply make people feel happy and connected, mobile apps to assist the mentally disabled, projects to support the ASPCA and dog adoption, and others that raise awareness about endangered animals, feminism, space travel, ectoplasm, and binary numbers.

By offering a high-quality computer science and engineering education platform for computing education and extracurricular STEM activities, we are community advocates and educators working to ensure a diversity of prepared people for an increasing number of high-wage, high-growth opportunities.

 

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Q: What do you see for the future of Codecraft Lab? Long term goals?

A bigger impact in reducing the talent gap. Codecraft Lab will take the same high-quality computer science and engineering education partnerships to new schools, communities, or students!

In the coming years, the Codecraft Lab platform will be delivering course curriculum in every county of every state, early and often, both inside and outside of the classroom, providing empowerment and real worlds skills for tomorrow’s leaders and tech visionaries in order to successfully reduce the talent gap.

 

Q: The tech world is a considerably male dominated field with female participation in tech roles ranging from 10-20%, how has your experience been in this regard?

Technology is about solving human problems, and it’s so disappointing that many young women – even in the U.S. – still feel less qualified and less confident than their male counterparts when considering classes, activities or careers in STEM and computing. Unfortunately, the gender gap is nothing new and recent findings show the trend is slowly getting worse.

A recent study revealed that teachers and career counselors still favor young men when talking to students about STEM and cybersecurity careers. 54 percent of U.S. male millennials are aware of the type of work and skillsets involved in cybersecurity careers compared to only one third of U.S. women having such knowledge.

Codecraft Lab is a part of the solution.

 

Q: Based on your knowledge, what are some ways in which we can increase engagement and accessibility to computer science programmes, particularly for underrepresented groups i.e. females and minorities?

In my firsthand experience with young people at Codecraft Lab, it’s been important to ensure that females are receiving the same information and opportunities as their male counterparts. They sit together, work together, and solve problems together. Build mutual respect and compassion for each other and diversity.

Mentoring all students to their highest and best ability is a great start. Allowing the skills to surface in support of a student’s natural interest is imperative! Computer science, programming, and engineering work, are needed in every industry so our first job is to let students know that the skills are not the job. They are a tool for getting any job done, just like math, reading, or writing help with any job.

By increasing awareness of the many roles and diverse professions, boosting confidence and awareness for young women, and all students, will we be able to reduce the gender gap and more effectively develop the empowered and innovative future workforce needed to strengthen our economic and national security.
We need both men and women to share success from across lots of sectors for the girls, and for the boys, ways to develop the innovative solutions needed to remain globally competitive.

 

What are some ways in which members of the tech community can work towards creating a more inclusive environment thereby improving participation from women & minorities in the tech industry?

Sunnamed-2tart at home! Share your story with your daughters and with your sons. Let your kids know what you do for work, the path you took to get to where you are today, and why you enjoy, or maybe don’t enjoy, your work. Start a “bring your kid to work” day?

Then, make opportunity available outside the home and widely accessible in your community. Introduce your child’s school to Codecraft Lab and help to make an introduction for a teacher who will start an after-school club. Talk to your city or county or favorite camp about including Codecraft courses in their summer program and contact us to help them. Get competitive!

You can also become a mentor at a nearby university or make entry level internships available for students. Volunteer, mentor, and speak at the Boys and Girls Club of America, the National Honor Society, Girl Scouts of America. Be an advisor, volunteer, or guest speaker at Codecraft Lab. Or get involved with a Girl Develop It chapter.

Start early! Developing relationships and sharing your firsthand experience will make a lasting impact, helping to make the tech industry more inclusive.

Codecraft Lab Founder Discusses Community-Based Coding Initiative for Kids