African Americans and Latinos are vastly underrepresented in computer science. Through Level Playing Field Institute’s Computer Science Initiatives, we address the need to expose and expand computer science learning opportunities for underrepresented students of color. LPFI seeks to address in California the following:

    • In California, by 2018, there will be a demand for over half a million new computing-related jobs, growing twice as fast (22% growth in 10 years) as the average rate for all occupations.
    • California is currently producing too few skilled computer science workers to meet the increasing demand.
    • Computer science jobs are among the highest-paying occupations, with an average mean annual salary of $78,730.

National Science FoundationOne of the ways LPFI is increasing access to and success in computer science education for underrepresented students of color is through a grant awarded by the National Science Foundation Computing Education for the 21st Century (CE21) program.

This grant enables LPFI to further develop the computer science course sequence within the SMASH Academy, providing a three-summer and one-academic year sequence of computer science courses for students and professional development for instructors, with the  ultimate goal of preparing students to take and pass the AP Computer Science A (and AP Computer Science Principles) course. This project aims to directly impact student engagement, interest, and computer science aspirations, and significantly increase the number of high school students of color in California taking computer science courses and taking and passing the AP Computer Science exams.

This project also provides a scalable model for replication of computer science pathways to college among underrepresented high school students of color in out-of-school settings, to greatly expand the number of African American and Latino students within the computer science pipeline.

Level the Coding Field Hackathons

Level the Coding Field hackathons launched in 2013, and to date we have hosted four app/program-development competition for hundreds of low-income middle and high school students of color from around the Bay Area and Detroit. Participating students receive the basic tools and skills to compete for recognition that rewards their efforts and fuels their aspirations. They identify innovative solutions to problems they face first-hand and gain exposure to computer science career paths. In August 2015, proud partner company Twilio hosted our hackathon at their headquarters in San Francisco.

Camp Code

At the Level Playing Field Institute, we believe that our students of color should be equipped with the exposure, skills and mentors to become the producers of technology rather than just the consumers. We also believe deeply in the role of parents, siblings and communities in validating, encouraging, and honoring the hard work of their student. This is why LPFI partnered with the YMCA, the nation’s community organization, for the past two years to pilot a computer science program called Camp Code. Our first pilot was in Oakland and the second in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco.

CS Initiatives Goals

Host youth hackathons locally and nationally to expose and empower underrepresented students of color to coding and design thinking to address educational, environmental, and health issues in their communities through technology

Develop a 6th to 12th grade CS pipeline model in an out-of-school context providing a path to Advanced Placement Computer Science preparation

Partner with school districts and other mission-aligned organizations to impact more students in the field of computer science

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under CE21 Grant Number 1339424.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.