"Every software engineer has something that gets them hooked their first time" on computer science, says Nate Good, who just received $1,000 from the Awesome Foundation
-- their monthly local award -- to bring the First Bytes Society to Pittsburgh. "For me that was making games on my calculator when I should have been doing something else. There's a whole creative side of software engineering. I wanted the First Bytes Society to be that critical hook for those kids. Once you get bit by the software bug -- once you experience the kind of creative outlet that can be -- it can propel itself."
If they start in college -- as cutbacks in high-school computer-science course are increasingly forcing kids to do, he believes -- it may be too late, since college courses begin with math and theory. He sees First Bytes as "an alternative path to computer science education" for fifth through ninth graders.
Good, who lives in Friendship, will hold the first meetings of First Bytes at the ticketing software development company Showclix, where he is director of software engineering. "I thought it would be interesting to get students in an environment where they can see what the whole young, start- up high-tech, computer-science industry looks like," he says, "and to sell students on the fact that not only can this be a fun thing to do, but it can be a fun career path."
His goal is to reach out to diverse groups that might not be represented in computer science, which he admits "is going to be one of the trickier parts of the program." In preparation, he has met with other community-focused computer groups to study their approaches, which are often to work with teachers and let teachers nominate students.
The group's Webpage
, still under construction, will soon have applications for both students and potential teachers. You can also follow the group on Twitter at @firstbytes.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nate Good, First Bytes Society