by Shannon Landin Codecraft Lab Co-founder & CEO We’ve all heard about ESL classes but what about CSL? CSL refers to Coding as a Second Language and Google is promoting this new educational discipline specifically as a way to diversify the tech industry. Google has partnered with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation to roll out CSL in New York, Los Angeles and Miami to introduce children to coding and then steer them to further instruction. The goal is to ultimately land internships and possibly full-time jobs at Fortune 500 companies, according to Engadget, which posted a 50-second video about the program on YouTube. Only 9% of Brevard County’s population is Hispanic but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be actively reaching out to such students to engage them in careers of the future. Coding will most assuredly be in that category and will be needed across every discipline. We have only scratched the surface in Brevard when it comes to coding education. That is precisely why we established Codecraft Lab. We saw a void that needed to be filled. But a major part of our charter includes ensuring accessibility for underserved students and families so they may experience the magic and power of hands-on, self-paced learning. At our very core we believe that all children should have the chance to learn to code regardless of their financial situation. It is also why we offer financial assistance. We believe that through monthly meet-ups, and with on-going community membership, corporate sponsorship, STEM field trip opportunities, and summer camps, we can provide this critical 21st century toolset to everyone. While Google’s goal at increasing diversity in the tech industry is laudable, diversity means many things to many people. In some states, diversity has nothing to do with race but everything to do with socio-economics. To others it means gender and heaven only knows we need more girls to learn to code, again to address the diversity needs of our society. Have you seen the incredible #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign? We all know that the tech industry is suffering from an extreme lack of diversity, and talking honestly about bias and where this problem comes from is critical. Lorenzo Ligato writes for Mashable, “… the backlash to Wenger’s ad goes beyond the standard discussion of diversity balance, or the gap in salaries between men and women. The comments she posted on Medium expose the all-too-common biases people have toward female engineers. These biases hold back women in computing and engineering, according to a 2015 report by The American Association of University Women.” Young women and girls, people of color and those with challenging economic backgrounds should all have access to the learning tools and mentors needed to move forward and to participate in the jobs of the future. We need to ensure we have scholarships available and, just as importantly, transportation to get these students from where they are to where they need to be to take advantage of our programs. Codecraft Lab has some powerful partners – GE, Rockwell Collins and IBM who are our corporate sponsors. We also have in-kind sponsors, which include Google, Code School, Liz Cowie Photography and Harris Corporation. We know we are lucky to have them, as this is a very big and critically important STEM initiative we are working on together. Thank goodness these industry leaders are so extremely involved in introducing computer sciences to children at an early age. Codecraft Lab students have already accomplished a great deal. A Gemini Elementary boy created an app of math games aimed at helping 5th graders enjoy learning. Two others are making an online adventure game that requires users to learn computer coding to solve challenges. Another local female student from Codecraft Lab took first place at the Florida State Science & Engineering fair in the Computer Science category, in eighth grade! She continues with her research hoping to one day truly provide independence to mentally handicapped students on the Space Coast and beyond. #SheLooksLikeAnEngineer. We have a unique opportunity to empower kids as creators, and prepare them for a bright future in our technology driven world. No other area of study will open as many doors in the 21st century as computer science, regardless of a student’s ultimate field of study or occupation. Every successful corporation, and every startup, has or desperately needs people with computer programming experience. As we head back to school, help us to ensure every student, regardless of circumstance, can learn to code and then spread the word that financial assistance is available to those in need.