Lynne Cure: Why I Organize CodeDay Baltimore
I’ve been involved with organizing CodeDay events since about February of 2021, and a big part of what’s motivated that involvement is how differently the organization frames itself and its role in getting people involved and engaged with tech from other events geared towards more advanced and older participants. From the beginning to the end of an event, a constant focus is placed on making sure beginners feel included, engaged, and excited about working on something creative outside of their comfort zone — for the one virtual event I served as a workshops producer, we even had more workshops and activities geared towards beginner students than for more advanced participants. CodeDay also sets itself apart from other CS events by keeping the ball rolling year-round in an active effort to foster a deeper sense of community; particularly during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, CodeDay’s Discord server was consistently active, with people sharing projects they were working on and more advanced members offering help when others ran into roadblocks.
In November of 2021, I was one of two Regional Managers for CodeDay Baltimore — working on this in particular was significant to me, as opportunities for middle and high school students to participate in computer science events of any kind are remarkably limited in the Baltimore area, even more so when most events were virtual at that point in time. During that event, I was made keenly aware not only of how effective CodeDay could be in engaging students — several of the participants were also members of the computer science club I run at my high school, and the environment CodeDay fostered helped them work on more creative and technically complex projects than I’d ever seen them attempt before. It helped show them that computer science is just as much a creative field as it is a technical one as they spent hours composing original music and drawing original art for their projects.
The biggest roadblock most beginner students in CS face in taking full advantage of their curiosity and creativity is often their own self-doubt and lack of knowledge of how to approach the challenges they’re facing. This is a sensation that higher-level events such as collegiate hackathons don’t tend to do much to help, as they’re overwhelmingly oriented towards older and more experienced attendees. CodeDay, on the other hand, is unique in its laser focus on combating this roadblock by equipping students with tools designed for their skill level, hosting workshops and events designed with them in mind, and providing individual-level support throughout the whole event, a focus which yields obvious dividends, as can be easily verified just by scrolling through CodeDay’s Showcase page.
Through my involvement in CodeDay, I’ve had the opportunity to work with phenomenal people, made some incredibly dear friends, and witnessed firsthand the profound impact computer science can have on beginner-level students if only they’re given an outlet to explore their interests creatively in an environment designed specifically for them; I’ve never seen an event or organization quite like it, and being able to help continue its mission has been an absolute privilege.