Maryville University announces a $250,000 grant from Boeing to extend the Coding Creators project currently in place for middle school students attending the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis.
Coding Creators helps create equity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and career opportunities for underserved students, by providing real-world coding experiences through after-school and summer courses at Club locations. Students learn to develop apps for smartphones, create their own websites and learn coding for robotics. Staff from the Boys & Girls Clubs learn along with the students, so they can continue teaching the courses after the grant period ends, using tools and equipment provided through the funding.
“It’s vital to engage students in coding and other areas of STEM by middle school to help excite and prepare them for advanced opportunities in high school and beyond,” said Steve Coxon, PhD, executive director of Maryville’s Center for Access and Achievement. “Out-of-school time has been a neglected area in which we can help underserved students find their potential to be creators in our increasingly technology-rich world,” he said.
Coxon has worked closely with Flint Fowler, PhD, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, to determine student needs and program logistics. Coxon will continue directing the project.
Coding Creators launched last year, with a previous grant from Boeing. The initial grant provided 144 computers and 48 robotics sets for courses taught by expert Maryville faculty at four Clubs — serving more than 200 students and several Club staff members.
With renewed funding, the program will expand using additional technology to teach coding for video games, music and more. Based on results from the grant in progress, the expanded program will offer twice the course offerings and double the hours they are offered, while focusing intensely on two Club locations each year. All technology will be donated to the Clubs for future use.
Plans also call for the program to expand in 2020 to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center in East St. Louis, Illinois. Center staff will undergo similar training and equipment will be donated for future participants there.
The goal remains to help students enter high school and post-secondary education better prepared for advanced studies in STEM, and to multiply their earnings potential in high demand fields like computer coding.
The St. Louis region stands to benefit in the long run as well, with a workforce better prepared to fill key STEM positions with major corporations.