3 weeks ago

Nikole Vaughn interview

Can you be an exec that also runs a CoderDojo for Girl Scouts? Nikole can

Unlike a lot of event runners in the wider educational/Raspberry Pi community, Nikole never really planned to be one.

“A local cybersecurity military non-profit group started the first known Dojos in San Antonio,” Nikole explains. “My kids and I [were invited] to join a Dojo to learn JavaScript. After two meeting dates, we received notice that the location was closing, and the Dojo needed a new gathering spot. I teach part-time for the University of Phoenix (UOP) in San Antonio, so the Dojo moved there for the remaining scheduled sessions. While sitting at UOP and checking-in the Ninjas, a realisation came to me: ‘I’m now running the Dojo.’”

She now runs her own CoderDojo with Malene Lawrence: the CoderDojo Collaborative at the San Antonio College, which has been its home for two years.

“The atmosphere is collaborative and community focused,” Nikole tells us. “Everyone brings all of who they are and offers their talents to the group for the betterment of all involved.”

There’s about a 60/40 split between boys and girls at the Collaborative

What is your CoderDojo like?

The CoderDojo Collaborative has 141 registered Ninjas, six Volunteer Champions (Dee Arnold, Tracie Hervey, Sheri Brown, Shiketa Gresham, Malene Lawrence, and myself), 35 Volunteer Professional Mentors, and 40 Non-technical Volunteers. We meet, for free, in nine dedicated spaces with computers at San Antonio College. We started with 20 Ninjas, two Champions, one Mentor, and no Non-Technical Volunteers.

Ninjas choose one topic to cover for a period of eight to nine weeks, then can register for a different topic after a Promotion Ceremony.

How have kids reacted to the CoderDojo?

Over the three years in operation, we have had 480 registered Ninjas. Kids show up ready to be cool and have fun. Our Ninjas often face the Saturday morning dilemma of having to choose between participating in a sporting event with a team, or coming to the Dojo. Parents are reporting that the Ninjas are choosing the Dojo more often, so are happy that we only meet two to three times per month, so that the kids can maintain their sports team position.

What are some of your favourite projects that have been made at the Dojo?

Reply from Steven Bernstein, a Raspberry Pi Mentor at the Collaborative:

It’s been projects that open the eyes of the kids to possibilities. Seeing the LED on the breadboard brighten for the first time, driven by code they entered themselves, is thrilling.

Some Ninjas have composed and played music using Python on the Raspberry Pi. Now Ninjas are learning how to create wearable and reactional Pi projects using LEDs. For interested Ninjas, one Mentor is teaching how to create a wearable WiFi hub using the Pi.

The All About Me websites seem simple in concept, but really demonstrate the power of code. Ninjas bring their interests into the digital world using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. One Ninja, who wanted to open a cupcake shop, created her own site with animated sprinkles falling from the sky onto cupcakes, while another Ninja created a site explaining his love of games like Minecraft. The Ninjas see that ideas in our natural world have life in the digital world.

Other Ninjas created 70 Scratch programs, ranging from an animated story book, to a ping-pong-like game, to a mathematical game to learn pre‑algebra concepts.