BlackRock Sponsors “Seattle CoderDojo” for Kids

The BlackRock Engineering group recently sponsored and hosted a volunteering event in which several Seattle developers participated. Seattle CoderDojo aims to “teach kids to code for free – one Saturday at a time.” The event corresponded with International NodeBots Day where programming communities around the globe held meetups focused on leveraging JavaScript to manipulate robots and other machines.

BlackRock’s “Robot Room” attracted an absolutely full house with over 100 kids motivated to get their Sphero Ball robots to blink, spin and bowl over sets of cups.

With a packed room of kids eager to learn, BlackRock volunteers helped them organize and get their Sphero Balls moving. Each volunteer helped at a table where kids collectively programmed a Sphero ball.

“The kids were really into it,” said Eunyoung Choe. “We started with how to make the ball execute simple tasks like moving forward. But they’d immediately take it up a level to make it do circles and loops.” Choe was particularly impressed with the caliber of kids at the event. “One 14 year old – David – was a genius. By the end he had become our assistant teacher.”

“What was cool,” Kevin Cain said, “is that the kids didn’t need any programming experience prior to the event. Some kids had some, but many were new and curious. Robots are a draw for kids and adults alike, so to get a robot to move on your first day was exciting for these guys. You could see they were hooked. For us, it was a chance to share what we do and give back in a meaningful way.”

Mikael Morlund enjoyed being ‘back in the classroom’ with the kids. He started programming in Basic when he was 12 and has continued programming ever since. At 15 he taught programming in his school in Sweden using a Commodore 64 and moved to C when he was 18. “When I saw the email about International NodeBots Day and the opportunity to teach kids some code, I thought it sounded really fun. There were two classes in the morning and two in the afternoon – people stayed the entire time.”

Win-Win for Kids and BlackRock

“A lot of parents were asking about BlackRock. They don’t necessarily see us as a tech company,” Kevin Morlund said. “It gave us an opportunity to describe BlackRock as an asset manager and fiduciary, but also a company with a strong engineering culture and one that believes in and fully embraces the value of technology.”

Like his colleagues, Jonathan Gaffke sees significant value by getting kids interested in programming by increasing BlackRock’s involvement within the Seattle developer community. “Working with kids in this capacity was fun, particularly since they were so eager to learn. And it gets BlackRock’s name out there as an engineering firm and a potential tech employer alongside Intel and Amazon. Word of mouth is powerful in the developer community. We have every reason to do it again.”

August 8th was Tech Sticker Day where the Seattle CoderDojo club had a table with free stickers for kids’ computers from local technology companies including BlackRock’s own “Robots Rock!”

An affiliate of the international CoderDojo organization, Seattle CoderDojo was established three years ago and continues to grow. Because event participation is free, Seattle CoderDojo relies exclusively on sponsors like BlackRock and volunteers to coordinate events, provide equipment, find event space and teach kids and their caregivers to program. Seattle CoderDojo has hosted 38 events so far this year.

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