(aka The VC3)

Jeremy Harms
Sep 25, 2014 · 4 min read

It’s hard to know where to start telling the story that unfolds even now called the Vine City Code Crew. It’s been said that any good story has a beginning, a middle and an end, though not necessarily in that order. Our end is yet to be written; we’re barely in our middle. So in this case, I think the beginning is a fitting beginning.

Last fall, almost a year ago, I heard one of the most poetic, moving and inspired visions for a historic, resilient and rightfully proud—albeit, under resourced—community in the heart of Atlanta known as Vine City. Nestled in the western shadows of the Georgia Dome, Vine City was one of Atlanta’s many neighborhoods with a rich historical heritage. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Joseph Lowery lived in the community during the Civil Rights movement. A once vibrant town, Vine City fell on very hard times later in the 70s and 80s…

Some five years ago or so, Drew, his family and a core of other friends moved into this community of beautiful and amazing people to make this neighborhood their home. From living next door to each other, to playing with one another in the same parks, to breaking bread together at a common table, Pastor Drew and the good people of Vine City together founded Redeemer Community Church. If you haven’t heard him speak about this body of believers and their church’s vision for their hometown, then quiet yourself for a moment to listen…


Seeing this on that fall Sunday morning at our church Trinity, something stirred deep inside. But there was really nothing, I thought, that a suburban tech guy like myself could do to make any real or meaningful contribution for a community I lived far away from and had no feasible channel for which I could engage. Unsatisfied with that notion, and spurred along by Pastor Gareth Allcott to press further into this desire, I asked Pastor Drew what (if anything) I could possibly contribute to become part of what they were doing down in Vine City. The challenge was to marry the passion of what I had felt awakened in my heart with something I knew how to do—or could learn to do—with my mind. After a bowl of the best salsa in all the southeast US, and three Nuevo Laredo tacos later, we had our idea. The credit-card sized, fits-in-a-cup, $35 Raspberry Pi computer would tackle the job and be our vehicle to deliver the class; a class to teach boys and girls the basics of computer programing.

The donations, contributions and the overwhelmingly positive support and backing of friends and two churches working together would be the fuel.

One of the inspirations we had around why this class is so important in general, is really best summed up by the likes of rockstar will.i.am, NBA star Chris Bosh, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and one of the wealthiest philanthropists and tech icons in the world, Bill Gates.


We knew we wanted to class to be fun, engaging and educational. We wanted to expose these young men and women to concepts that maybe they hadn’t seen before, heard of before or just didn’t an opportunity to explore before. So we incorporated the likes of littleBits, LEGO WeDo motors and old school breadboard-like circuit kits to give the kids something tactile to experiment with and discover before and after class.

But even more importantly, we wanted these kids to feel and realize the power of something amazing that technology allows us to do — to control and interact with objects in the real world around us. So on that first night, we setup a demo at Redeemer where the class is held, and gave them a vision of what they too will be able to do in Python by the end of the sixth meeting. Take a look below at the kind of thing they saw that evening, and how cool Philips Hue LED lights can be when you learn how to leverage code and make these kinds of connected objects bend to your will. Think about the apps on your smartphone or tablet—they do whatever they do because some guy or gal wrote some lines of code to develop a piece of software that you love to use. Here you see a small example of what that can look like:


I’ll attempt to write up a brief review of each session we have, show you the actual code and labs we learned, and then you too can come along with us on our quest as we prepare to dominate the Internet of Things! So grab a keyboard, mouse and brew a fresh pot of coffee, oh fellow intrepid coder. Things are about to get pretty rad up in here…

Next Code Crew entry: Session # 0001

Jeremy Harms

Written by

Husband, dad, Crimson Tider and The Vine City Code Crew.

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