Starting in August of 2016 we partnered with Pivotal Labs to run our first "Learn To Code" program we dubbed the "Pivotal Mentors Program".
The goal for the program was simple. Can we make use of the Pivotal Labs office and coordinate some of the engineers at Pivotal Labs to help students in the Cambridge area learn how to code? We simply wanted to start by providing positive software development experiences for students in order to hopefully inspire some to continue learning more once the program was over and ensure that all students felt capable of coding if they ever did decide they wanted to pursue it later in life.
Within this program we would focus on a number of ideas that we want to explore with The Puzzle School:
The existing resources we decided to test included:
We also developed a number of discrete challenge-based lessons, including a scavenger hunt focused on decrypting messages using algorithms.
By the end of the program the clear feedback from students was that they preferred the discrete challenges, such as those offered in Project Euler, especially the scavenger hunt which provided an opportunity to decode messages and get up and move around the office to find tokens.
In general everyone seemed to enjoy the program. Every student said they would come back to the next program if possible. While there's clearly room for improvement, the simple act of bringing students into an interesting non-school environment and having them work closely with experienced and empathetic mentors seemed to be a real success even as we experimented with the curriculum each week.
We're already in the process of developing ideas for the next program. We have ideas for more discrete challenges, we're exploring a "Drawing In Code" pathway, and we're brainstorm around how to more effectively support students toward projects of their own creation.
We're also going to try and bring in more mentors from other software companies in the Kendall area. We were able to bring in a few for this past program and it went really well so hopefully the program can grow into more of a club where mentors and students can connect around interesting software engineering activities on a regular basis.
“So this was the big secret historians keep to themselves: historical research is wildly seductive and fun. There's a thrill in the process of digging, then piecing together details like a puzzle.”
~ Nancy Horan
“As a kid, I was into music, played guitar in a band. Then I started acting in plays in junior high school and just got lost in the puzzle of acting, the magic of it. I think it was an escape for me.”
~ Michael J. Fox
“When you write non-fiction, you sit down at your desk with a pile of notebooks, newspaper clippings, and books and you research and put a book together the way you would a jigsaw puzzle.”
~ Janine di Giovanni