Kickstarting Computer Science Education

By Maegan Azpiazu, Communications Specialist, Grades 9-12

A group of Gulliver students are working diligently to give all students in Miami-Dade County the opportunity to expand their knowledge in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas. How do they plan to take on such a task? Through a unique online educational platform they have developed, called Kickstart.

Developed by Prep students Jake Seymour '20, Sebastian Quintero '20, Ishan Shah '20, Matthew Garcia '20, Ryan Costa '20 and Daniel Fleites-Cruz '20, Kickstart is dedicated to guiding students through learning object-oriented computer programming. By teaching advanced coding concepts through the use of personalized instructional videos and applications such as Prezi, Nearpod and Google Forms, Kickstart aims to lay the foundation for programming languages such as Java. It's aimed at students in grades 8-11, particularly those in Miami who don't have ready access to coding courses with differentiated instruction.

"Through their proposed efforts, students involved in Kickstart would be indirectly improving the STEM skills of the very students who would be striving to attend local universities like FIU," said Dr. Mario Eraso, STEM Coordinator at Florida International University's School of Computing and Information Sciences.

STEM skills are not only ideal for university admissions and continued success in the classroom at the collegiate level, they are also vital for young adults entering the 21st century workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently found that more than half of new tech-sector jobs require some type of coding skills, and by 2020, that number is forecast to reach 77 percent. In cybersecurity alone, researchers expect to see 3.5 million unfilled jobs by 2021, up from 1 million last year.

"The gap between the skills students typically learn and the skills they need in order to become successful in the future economy is becoming more significant," said Mr. Dean Morell, Prep computer science faculty member and Kickstart mentor. "Skills such as algorithmic analysis and object-oriented programming, which [students] develop in computer programming courses, will be crucial to students' marketability in the 21st century workforce."

This summer, Kickstart held a collaborative feedback session on the status of the initiative and their new web app. Gulliver administrators joined FIU's Eraso, Shriver Entertainment CEO John Schappert and alumnus and current MIT student Sebastian Bartlett '15 for the presentation, which can be viewed here.

What's next for Kickstart? This fall, the team plans to pilot Coding Fundamentals classes at Gulliver and with community partner Breakthrough Miami. Click here to access Kickstart's web app and to learn more.