Travis Heppe, an Alameda, California resident and Google software engineer, recently did some research on participation among minorities in computer science. What he found was shocking. Although 90% of parents want their kids to learn computer science, only 14% of public high schools offer AP Computer Science A, the most rigorous CS prep course commonly taught in high school. There were approximately 11,500 AP tests for that class taken last year (a number that is way too low), but the number taken by African American girls across the entire state was only 36.
Subsequent to his research, Travis felt that the next step was to do something about it. He contacted srnd.org, a nonprofit focused on increasing diverse CS enrollment, that 3 times yearly, runs hackathons called CodeDay (the next event is in November). They said they'd had luck in the past buying second hand Lenovo Chromebooks from Ebay for $50-60. Travis then fired up his checkbook and keyboard. He donated $2,000 of his own money and challenged his coworkers to match it with smaller increments. And did they ever — at least 70 people have donated, and the campaign has raised over $10,000 so far!
In the words of Tyler Menezes, director of srnd.org:
"This will be a REALLY big help. Giving away laptops is the sort of thing that's really hard to get funded by foundations or grants. Getting loaner laptops for a day is easier, but it's so sad to see kids get excited about programming, and know that at the end of the day, they're going to have to go home and stop working."
The laptops will be distributed through partner high schools across the country that are both low-income and have a high concentration of minority students. Student participants will be responsible for the first $20 (approximately 1/3) of the cost. Funds raised so far will be sufficient for 200 such laptop subsidies. Anyone interested in contributing can do so at srnd.org/donate.
Inspired by my friend Travis, I donated too and used the Autodesk Foundation's matching donation program.