An ongoing conversation within security and technology, is how to create more diversity in the workplace. To do so, it’s imperative to introduce science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities to all kids at a young age and spark an interest in a future career in the field. At Code42, we’ve been working to help change that narrative through a variety of in-house initiatives and outreach activities. We’ve worked with the Girl Scouts on coding and cyber badges, sponsored numerous women in tech events, including Minnesota Women in Tech and NCWIT Aspirations in Computing, and this summer we’ll be hosting a week-long App Camp For Girls and gender non-conforming kids.
But one of the perennial favorites for both the kids and grownups at Code42 is our annual Bring Your Coder to Work Day, the Code42 version of Bring Your Child To Work Day. Turns out this annual event is also one of the best opportunities for outreach in helping shape future generations of kids interested in STEM careers.
This year, on April 25, approximately 200 future coders from ages 0-18 years descended on the Code42 headquarters in downtown Minneapolis to participate in a day of learning led by current Code42 employees, also known as Guardians. The event, now in its fifth year, is a fun way for kids to learn and get excited about careers in technology.
Starting out young, our littlest guardians (0-5 years) gain familiarity with coding basics by playing Robot Turtles board games while experiencing the unique office environment of mom’s or dad’s tech company (Juice in the fridge! Cereal bar! Bean bag chairs!).
From there the kids progress with their knowledge by age group and take part in a variety of coding activities, including:
- Dash the Robot & Scratch: teaching young kids about the basics of algorithms and writing instructions for computers – which is then brought to life by completing various challenges with Dash the Robot.
- Joke Machine: Kids learned the basics of HTML and CSS to create their own website with their best jokes. (i.e. Q: What does a baby computer call its father? A: Data)
- Arduino: Kids learned the basics of C programming, circuitry and problem-solving with Arduino kits.
- Picade: This session focused on how to assemble a hand-built arcade gaming system using a Raspberry Pi.
- Capture the Flag (CTF): And new this year, the oldest kids took part in a specially designed CTF exercise with our Security Team. Kids learned about ethical hacking and how to solve problems without having a clear roadmap from which to work.
The day provided STEM and cybersecurity learning opportunities in a fun environment for kids of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to adding mom/dad cred, kids gain a better understanding of the role technology plays in their day-to-day lives, and how they all can help shape present and future technologies.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the value of this day. My daughter took part in her third Coder Day this year – a day she looks forward to and talks about throughout the year. She loved getting to make her robot “dance” and left the office asking if she could get her own robot so she could continue to practice coding.
This day has imparted a sense of confidence and empowerment in her. I’ve overheard her in conversations with both grown-ups and kids, when someone brings up a problem they are having, she jumps in with, “My mom can fix that, she’s a coder! And someday I’m going to be a coder, too.” Of course, that sort of response makes me feel like a bit of a superhero, but moreover, it encourages me that the lessons she learns from Coder Day are foundational building blocks that demonstrate to her the power to solve problems lies with her, not someone else.
I look forward to seeing this generation of diverse coders continue to grow and re-shape the world of security and technology that we know today. Beyond that, Coder Day is simply SO rewarding and tons of fun!