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January 28, 2015 | Tom Ballard

TN Code Academy grew beyond expectations in 2014

TN Code AcademyBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“We experienced a great amount of growth, much of it really unexpected,” the TN Code Academy’s Sammy Lowdermilk says in describing 2014.

The organization that is a subsidiary of The Biz Foundry, one of Launch Tennessee’s nine regional accelerators, really hit the mark with its overall training and its innovative “100 Girls of Code” initiative.

“I’ve always been someone that likes to think big,” Lowdermilk explains. “We hit this opportunity at the perfect time. I did not think it would go this fast.”

The speed with which the TN Code Academy accelerated out of the gate is exceptional. During 2014, the organization offered 30 coding events, from one-day sessions to week-long camps. More than 200 young women participated in its “100 Girls of Code” programs.

“It exploded on us,” Lowdermilk says of the coding initiative focused on girls between 12 and 18 years old.

All of this growth resulted in some rethinking of the TN Code Academy model to ensure it scaled successfully based on the opportunities that exist.

As a key component of the new strategy, Lowdermilk announced a new initiative last December to franchise its week-long camps. Called “Digital Pathways,” he said the concept is designed to “allow local communities to take more control of their events.”

The TN Code Academy trains the licensee on how to run the program and the individuals who will do the actual instruction. Lowdermilk’s organization also provides what he describes as the backend services – equipment, class materials and even registration.

“It’s a better model for us,” he says. The licensing concept also allows a local community to brand the programs with their own name.

Those familiar with the “CO.STARTERS” program launched by Chattanooga’s CO.LAB will see similarities in the licensing approach.

“We’re talking to 20 organizations across the country that want to license one or more of our programs,” Lowdermilk. In fact, he announced in the past week that “100 Girls of Code” chapters were being launched in Lake Oswego, OR and Columbia, SC. Similar announcements are expected soon, maybe as many as a dozen chapters.

“One organization is looking to use our curriculum to teach adults,” Lowdermilk said.

Even as it looks to make its curriculum available nationally, the TN Code Academy will continue to be the exclusive provider of the programming in the Volunteer State.

“We will do everything in Tennessee ourselves including the ‘100 Girls of Code,’” Lowdermilk said.

In fact, the 2015 edition of the “100 Girls of Code” in Tennessee launches February 7.

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