By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
One might easily give Sammy Lowdermilk a new nickname. If you did, it would be “The Code Man.”
Less than a year ago, The Biz Foundry launched its inaugural “Code Camp” for young people in the 12- to 18-year old age group. It was a week-long day camp designed to teach youth how to code, develop websites, programs, and games.
“The initial need we saw and wanted to address was the talent required in the entrepreneurship accelerator world,” Lowdermilk explained.
Today, the Tennessee Code Academy, a relatively new subsidiary of The Biz Foundry, is offering a wide range of programs for youth, adults and former members of the Armed Services. During the 2014 spring break period for school age youngsters, eight week-long camps have been scheduled, including one in the Knoxville area in conjunction with STEMspark.
The Academy’s latest push is a statewide summer initiative called the “100 Girls of Code.”
Starting June 9 in Memphis and continuing for up to five weeks, a two-person instructional team of Tennessee Technological University (TTU) students – Coco Bennett and Kita Maynard – will conduct programs across the state.
“It’s a one-day basic introduction to programming,” Lowdermilk says, adding the goal is excite females about the job opportunities available in the computer science realm. Up to 35 individuals can participate in each session.
A key motivation for the female-focused program is the participation level of young women in current programs.
“Our previous camps have been dominated by young men with only one or two females at each program,” Lowdermilk.
Current East Tennessee sessions include June 23 in Chattanooga, June 30 in Knoxville, July 7 in Johnson City, July 8 in Kingsport, and July 9 in Bristol.
“We plan to add one in Oak Ridge at Roane State Community College’s campus,” Lowdermilk said.
The Tennessee Code Academy is looking for sponsors for the summer “100 Girls of Code” series. TTU is a platinum sponsor. The initiative is also getting support from start-ups like Waypaver in Chattanooga and developers like Daniel Ryan, the former Director of Front-end Development for President Obama’s 2012 election campaign.
Lowdermilk says that additional cities can be added if local sponsors are found. The cost to host a one-day “100 Girls of Code” event is $500.
Early indicators point to a great deal of interest in the sessions.
“We already have 25 registered without that much promotion,” Lowdermilk said.
For the former Congressional staffer, a personal passion has become all consuming.
“I’m strictly Code Academy,” Lowdermilk told us recently. Just a year ago, he joined The Biz Foundry as Director of Communications and Technology.
Lowdermilk also noted the enthusiasm that he is seeing across the region for the Academy’s offerings.
“The Knoxville week-long program in March was completely filled, and we had to turn away 15 people who wanted to attend,” he said.