Capital One Coders Helps Students Shape Their Future

By Jennifer Manry, MVP, Enterprise Technology, Capital One

I was inspired early in life by technology. Not every nine-year-old girl wants to grow up to be an engineer, but I did and I had the support and the opportunity to follow my passion. I am fortunate that I am now in a place in my life — and in my work at Capital One — that I can share my enthusiasm and, hopefully, inspire others to pursue their passions in much the same way. And most of all, I want to pay it forward to the next generation by inspiring them.

Technology is everywhere and it’s changing just about everything, from how we work and manage our day-to-day activities to how we communicate with one another. Its potential is unlimited. Capital One’s Future Edge initiative — our five-year, $150 million effort to equip the people in our communities with the skills they need to succeed in the digital economy — is focused on addressing this need. Given Capital One’s abundance of tech talent and our relationships with dozens of schools and community organizations, we recognized a tremendous opportunity to encourage young people to pursue STEM careers and open their eyes to new possibilities. Through the Capital One Coders program, we are preparing thousands of middle school students for brighter futures by exposing them to technology and fostering a focus on software engineering.

Since the program launched in late 2014, more than 1,000 Capital One associates have volunteered as Coders mentors and instructors. They engage one-on-one with students, share their passion for technology, and get kids excited about STEM at a critical time in their education. Armed with the basic principles of software development and the help of the MIT

App Inventor learning platform, students even get a chance to design and build their own mobile apps at the culmination of the 10-week program.

Watching sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders put their newfound digital skills and creativity to work to build an app is an amazing sight to behold. Students never fail to fully throw themselves into the process, which calls for fresh thinking, teamwork, problem-solving, and, often, a healthy dose of patience. Throughout the course of the program, over 2,500 students have worked together to create 500 different mobile apps, each with its own distinct function — ranging from informative and educational to purely entertaining.

Students working with a Capital One volunteer at the NYC Hackfest.

Whether they’re building Nutri-Tron, an app to identify food allergens in packaged foods, or a competitive car-racing game called Impulse Racer, this hands-on experience helps students harness the power of technology to create something that is all their own. Time and again, we see students leave the program with more than just new technical skills. They graduate from Capital One Coders feeling accomplished and more confident — you can almost see the lightbulb switch on over their heads.

In October, we’ve created a new extension of the program called Coders Experience: 10 day-long events over two weekends where 500 Capital One volunteers are teaching more than 950 middle-school-age girls to code. Participating teams are invited to attend the WIT Experience on November 15, a free event for women in tech featuring skill building, workshops, networking, and inspiring speakers.

Now more than ever, access to Computer Science and digital inclusion are essential to finding and staying in rewarding careers. While only about a quarter of K-12 schools currently offer a Computer Science course with programming included, 71 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, creating a digital divide from an early age. Capital One Coders, and youth-oriented programs like it, can have a profound impact on students, sparking an interest they didn’t know existed before and opening the door to long-term success in our changing economy.

Fortunately, as technology continues to evolve, our program is evolving as well. In the months ahead, we’ll be expanding the focus of our curriculum to include web design and robotics, providing new areas for middle schoolers to explore.

I’ve been incredibly proud to see Capital One Coders grow in scale and reach over the past three years, and I am heartened by the enthusiasm it has been met with — from our associate volunteers, the schools and community groups we partner with, and the students we get the chance to meet. Not only do these middle schoolers get a glimpse into what a career in technology might look like, but they also begin to understand how they can have a hand in shaping and building the world around them.

These opinions are those of the author. Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor is it endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are the ownership of their respective owners. This article is © 2017 Capital One.