theCO’s program, Dev Catalyst, annually hosts a competition for local students who are interested in coding and robotics. Throughout the course of the program, nearly 800 students participated in one of three categories (Novice Web Development, Advanced Web Development, and Data Development) in order to learn teamwork skills, develop professional skills, network with tech professionals, and hopefully win the grand prize trip to San Francisco, California.

Accompanying the students, are teachers of the participants from the local Dev Catalyst schools, who get to join the students in the events of the trip, like visiting big tech companies and speaking with tech professionals.

This trip gives students the chance to see the industry for themselves, and encourage them to continue pursuing STEM related fields. Yet, it also provides teachers the opportunity to see how they can improve or develop their classrooms based on the first hand experience of seeing big tech companies at work.

Donna Newberry, Mathematics and Technology Instructor, at Jackson Christian School, shares how the Dev Catalyst San Francisco trip has helped mold her classroom.

“My classroom was already casual with a couch, futon, bistro table, and other work tables, so it was reinforcement for me to see successful workplaces arranged and decorated informally. All of my students have laptop computers now, so they do not have to feel tied to a desk. I think the more the students feel "at home", the better.”

By encouraging students to work together to meet common goals, the classroom dynamic changes to one of participation, and models itself after the modern tech industry.

“When I was in San Francisco, I heard the word collaborate over and over and over again,” Newberry says.  So I have arranged my classroom so that the students sit together. One thing I have added since beginning Dev Catalyst competitions is a bookcase for keeping trophies and pictures of our students who have won trips to San Francisco. I try to keep that goal in front of them every day.”

Kimberly Moore, CTE teacher at Chester County High School, says “We invested in Autonomous Desk and it has literally changed the "spirit" of the room. Redesigning the layout and adding the stand-up desk has naturally made it more accessible to students to move around and allowed students some freedom that they do not get to experience in other classrooms.”

Dev Catalyst has helped build the coding culture in the greater West Tennessee area, not just for students, but also for teachers. By partnering with, and encouraging teachers to come on the San Francisco trip, teachers are allowed to learn new styles of  teaching and classroom management.

“Pivotal Labs allowed us to participate in their morning "Startup" meeting,” says Moore. “It was a fun circle allowing projects that had just been completed to be highlighted, along with updates and helps. It was quick and a fun way to update the entire group of employees of what was going on around them... It also allowed others to be proactive and coming to you on their time. The concept and importance of "pair coding" was most likely the most valuable concept that I have implemented in my classroom.”

The trip to Silicon Valley gives students the opportunity to recognize the innovation that is driving so many careers and businesses today, and theCO is optimistic that the Dev Catalyst students can carry out anything they set their minds to.