Google opened a brand new coding lab in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood last week as part of an effort to bring computer science education to a diverse group of disadvantaged students.
The Code Next initiative aims to get black and Latino students involved in coding and computer science, hacking and tinkering.
The 1,500-square-foot hacker space is a home for Google’s outreach efforts aimed at young people and partners with local schools and organizations like Black Girls Code.
The goal is to “create ‘aha!’ moments that connect computer science to students’ everyday lives,” said Nilka Thomas, Google’s director of Diversity and Inclusion.
The curriculum which was first tested at another temporary location in downtown Oakland starting in January. The students met twice a week and now the program is “ready for prime time,” Thomas said.
Google consulted with MIT Media Lab, The Unity Council and Kurani design to build the space. The company plans to open a similar facility in Harlem, New York in 2017.
Thomas said Google selected Oakland and Harlem based on density of the target student population and partner organizations committed to computer science education. Middle schools and partners can nominate students to participate in Code Next.
“Long term, our goal is to open-source the curriculum to educators everywhere,” she said.
Google hired Gallup to study computer science education last year. The report and other research informed the company’s recommendations to improve access to computer science education and make it accessible to all students. The report found that black students and students from low-income families reported less access to computer science classes and clubs at school.
“Without this access, students are unable to discover an interest in computer science or be inspired by the possibilities that come along with it,” Thomas said.
According to Claire Shorall, computer science manager for the Oakland Unified School District, 2,853 OSUD students are taking computer science classes this year, up from 685 in the 2015-16 school year.
“Instead of simply broadening the pipeline, the Oakland Unified School District has dug an entirely new trench, thus laying the groundwork to teach all students computer science — an agency-creating course necessary for access, sustainability, and choice in the 21st century,” she wrote in a post on Medium last month.
The district is also working with Salesforce and Code.org to expand offerings in middle schools and across the district. Google opens coding lab to teach about computer science in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood.