The Congressional App Challenge is made possible through a variety of corporate sponsors. While most sponsors are tech companies, a variety of contributions come from organizations that join in our mission of exposing more students to coding. Recently, Jack West, our Congressional Operations Coordinator, sat down with Hansel Lynn, CEO and Founder of theCoderSchool to discuss their history, the Congressional App Challenge, and the future of education.
theCoderSchool is the brainchild of Hansel Lynn. Six years ago, Lynn, a corporate tech veteran, was attempting to teach his child coding through an online course. To his surprise, his child had completed it rather quickly. However, when he asked about the details of the course, he realized they breezed through it, but hadn’t retained much information. Lynn realized that children need a mentor for subjects as in-depth as computer science, and thus the idea for theCoderSchool was born.
Through weekly classes and a dedicated mentor team, theCoderSchool has had a profound impact on the way students learn to code. In 2020 alone, over 60 student teams from theCoderSchool competed in the Congressional App Challenge and more than 10 received honors in their respective districts. theCoderSchool has a deep reach with over 50 locations across the United States serving students that range from elementary through high school. theCoderSchool has provided students of all backgrounds with the opportunity to learn coding on a basic level and to cement their critical thinking and computer science skills.
When asked if a competition, like that of the Congressional App Challenge, is beneficial Lynn said, “The best part of the Congressional App Challenge is that it’s an open competition. Students, especially young/first-time coders, can build whatever they think is awesome. It provides older students recognition of their work on a national level and helps younger students push themselves to try new ideas.” Ultimately, what Lynn aims to accomplish with these younger coders is “to build confidence” in their coding and provide core skills that can help them in the future.
This came to fruition with the winner from Congresswoman Dina Titus’s (NV-01) district, Dillon Goudie. Dillon, a sixth grader at Hyde Park Middle School, credited theCoderSchool for teaching him not only how to code, but also for pushing him to enter the competition, stating that he wanted to enter into the competition as he saw it as “a challenge”. Pushing a young coder, like Dillon, to compete on the national level provides students with the confidence that they can continue in this subject and provides them the feedback necessary to improve their skills.
Lynn’s words align very closely with the mission of the Congressional App Challenge. By inspiring a diverse set of students from across the country at a young age, both programs aim to create a robust and equitable STEM pipeline to help ensure America’s competitiveness in the 21st century and beyond. The App Challenge provides early coders recognition on a national scale and allows them to be creative in their app design.
As the conversation moved to educating the future workforce, Lynn pointed out that all students should learn basic coding skills “even if they aren’t planning on going into computer science, as they will still need some form of technical skill in the future workforce.” The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important technical proficiency is and how the tech sector will continue to grow at an exponential rate. While Lynn believes that public schools should consider more “coding centric classes,” he says that “soft skills are just as important, if not more important. If you’re good at coding and can communicate, it’s basically a superpower.”
As #HouseOfCode 2021 wraps up and we look back at all of the hard work that our students have done, we want to take a moment to thank the continued support of sponsors like theCoderSchool. Organizations like these will help us achieve our goal of bringing more students into the conversation of computer science. To learn more about theCoderSchool and find a location near you, you can visit their website. Student registration for the 2021 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June 2021.