Skills for the 21st Century

C1 Coders Bring STEM Learning to Life

“I just created something that I never knew I could create!” exclaimed a middle school student who just got her app working for the first time. This sums up the excitement of hundreds of middle school students around the country who embarked on a 10-week journey to learn software development skills in a fun and engaging environment. Culminating in the creation of their own mobile apps, the journey also gave students a better understanding of software engineering principles, problem solving skills, and a few important life lessons, like that there are such things as bugs in software.

A Growing Volunteer and Learning Program

Originally launched at two schools in five communities in the fall of 2014, the C1 Coders program is now in 35 different schools across the country and a modified version is used in countless one-day and week-long events. The objective of the program is simple: expose middle school students to technology by partnering with schools and community leaders to foster a focus in software engineering.

More than 1,000 Capital One associates have volunteered as instructors and mentors to share their passion for technology and to lend a hand in developing future software engineers. “Capital One sends mentors into the classrooms to work with the students hands-on and really give them the exposure to someone who is in a software engineering career. The program is a really great way to get them exposed at such an early age so that as they start high school and move into college, they’ll have a familiarity with software engineering,” said Matthew McCurdy, a Software Engineer at Capital One.

Learning STEM, Professional, and Social Skills

Since its inception, over 2,500 students have participated in the program and have created 500 different mobile apps with the help of MIT App Inventor 2. The App Inventor learning platform encourages students to focus on learning algorithms, abstraction, decomposition, pattern recognition, and generalization, all without the syntax of a specific programming language getting in the way.

Student-generated apps have included everything from Nutri-Tron – an app that allows users to input their food allergies and scan the barcodes of food packages to see if they contain the allergen, to Impulse Racer – a racing game where users pick a car and compete against other users to see who can complete the course the fastest. “I’m really appreciative [of Capital One Coders] for coming and giving us this really good chance to learn new skills and have fun and meet different people,” said one of the students after seeing his app come to life.