OP3portunities Newsletter

Capital Coders and FCPS

capital coders As we prepare the next generation of our workforce for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, companies, like Capital One, are partnering with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and investing in initiatives that help equip all students with the skills they need to succeed.

In 2014 Capital One launched Capital One Coders as part of their Future Edge initiative that commits $150 million over five years in community grants and support efforts to help more Americans get 21st century skills. Capital One Coders is a 10-week coding curriculum for middle school students that teaches them to use MIT University’s App Inventor2 blocks-based programming language to develop apps for mobile devices. For the past three years FCPS has partnered with Capital One for this hands-on learning experience, which is completely planned and led by Capital One volunteers. Under the helpful and watchful eyes of individual mentors, groups of 20-25 students gain exposure to software engineering principles and practices. At a closing event at the Capital One Headquarters in McLean, students unveil their apps and compete for prizes in four categories: Best Application, Most User Friendly, Most Creative and Most Technical Application.

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Forceful Facts

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  • Since the program’s launch in April 2014, Capital One Coders has partnered with over 75 schools and nonprofit organizations, impacting 9,000 students.
  • At the closing events, participating students are surprised with a laptop of their own to take home
  • To date Capital One has engaged 2,500 associate volunteers for over 54,000 hours in pro bono volunteerism for the Capital One Coders program
  • Currently, nearly 51% of jobs are STEM-related. In Virginia alone, STEM employment is expected to top 71,000 workers – and the current talent pipeline is not on pace to meet demand.
  • It’s estimated that every unfilled position in Virginia costs the economy $65,000. 
More than 200 FCPS students at 10 schools have benefitted from Capital Coders. One school’s success however, stands out.

Cedar Lane is a special education high school focusing primarily on students with emotional disabilities and Autism. Encouraged by the school’s staff and principal, Tom Lundy, Capital One adjusted their standard qualifications of working only with middle school students and based three of their 10-week sessions there. It was a true experiment to see how if these kids who are bright students would push the limits of software designed for younger students.

The results were impressive. There have been three rotations of after-school coding classes at Cedar Lane serving 10-15 students each session. An ancillary benefit was the one-to-one mentoring/instruction which was a key factor for keeping these students engaged and excited. Principal Lundy reported that throughout the coding classes and at the App Challenge -- despite the large, noisy crowds at the Challenge -- the young coders were comfortable and confident in presenting their apps. One Cedar Lane team’s program in particular caught the interest of the Capital One judges – you may even see it in your app store one day!

The success of this program has prompted the Cedar Lane School team to find ways to incorporate STEM activities into the curriculum. In the fall, students will be able to sign up for a VEX Robotics course.
FCPS seeks Mentoring, Tutoring, Workforce Development partners.  Check out their Ignite Partnerships page.


Want to help propel FCPS in other ways? Consider donating to the Foundation for Fairfax County Schools.  

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