Summer is a great time for students to spend time learning new things, and Roblox makes it fun. We will cover the basics on how to build and script in Roblox.
Due to COVID pre-cautions, we are going to offer this course on-line. This also means we will only have 4-6 students in this course, so we can give each student the attention they need to create a new game, and the on-line teaching format can be challenging. But it’s worth it!
Hope IT is hopeful, navigating through the new realities with the COVID virus. We want to share why. Here’s an interesting story about a Hope IT student in the last few months.
Olivia is 16, and a junior at Hoover High school in Glendale. Rev. Jim Milley from Bridges, a non-profit Christian based organization, referred her to us.
Olivia came to Hope IT at a difficult period with her family.Rev. Jim thought Hope IT could provide her some technical skills. The timing was right, as we were starting our October WordPress course, teaching how to create web sites. Olivia joined, and did very well. (See a sample of her work at the top of this newsletter.) Rev. Jim hired her to work on the Bridges WordPress site. While Bridges uses different WordPress Themes and Plugins shown in the course, Olivia understood the concepts and adapted. She said the skills she learned in the Hope IT WordPress course enabled her to be effective this job.
This is what Hope IT wants. We were thrilled with the immediate success of our student. Then came another idea: If she is this good, could she teach WordPress to other kids? More broadly, can Hope IT teach and enable kids to teach other kids?
God provided such an opportunity. Hope IT also was teaching a WordPress course with Stars in Pasadena (an afternoon mentoring and tutoring program) last Fall, and they wanted another WordPress course in the Winter. They were open to have Olivia co-teach with me. And so she did. For six weeks on Wednesday nights, Olivia and I taught 3 Stars students WordPress; two of these students were girls. Was it perfect? No. Do we have ideas how to make this better in the future? Definitely.
On top of this, Hope IT paid Olivia to teach. We do not have a motivation structure in place yet. Olivia in fact took us by surprise. She is so able. So our motivation for her to teach was to pay her $13 per hour for this course, including five hours of preparation and debriefing time. Worth every penny. And we partnered with Bridges to make this happen, having them handle the taxes and other details with Olivia’s work permit. We are sure this will increase Olivia’s confidence going forward.
Olivia wants to get into the medical field when she goes to college. I also work for a hospital, and we have a ton of data. She has finished our Data Analysis course in February (see one of her dashboards using Google Data Studio at the bottom of this email), and is also taking college courses. True, she is exceptional, but we will seek the spark in any kid. Hope IT is there for kids who have the ability, but just need those key times to gain skills and opportunities, and encouragement.
You may also notice the side story of partnership going on with Hope IT; that is key for us. Again, Hope IT is focused on underserved kids in the Pasadena area, to give them access to IT/computer skills, as well as to IT professionals.
Please pray for our students and our Hope IT team. God shows the way.
Hope IT finished 2 on-line courses in February. It was a full time for us, despite COVID.
First, we finished our Data Analysis course, meeting on 4 Saturdays mornings. We used Google’s Data Studio, and covered 3 datasets: our own course member’s Cell Phone Ownership data to start, and 2 datasets from Kaggle, Video Game Sales and COVID-19 data from John Hopkins University. We covered basic statistical functions –like Minimum, Maximum, Counts, Sums, Mean (Average) and Median — and created Bar, Line and Geo charts. We also covered how to avoid dirty tricks with statistics, and how Data Science uses data to make future predictions.
Second, we finished a second WordPress course with Stars. This was a 6 week course, meeting on Wednesday nights. We had 3 students, and covered Themes — the Astra Theme — and Plugins, like the Elementor page builder, WP Power Stats to track users visiting our site, Yoast SEO, and even a eCommerce plugin, Easy Digital Download. And on top of all that, this course was co-taught by a student that took the October WordPress course; more on that later.
Happy New Year! We hope 2021 begins a good year for you.
This is Hope IT’s fifth year. We had our share of difficulties and missteps, but God showed us the kids are well worth the effort. That gives us purpose, and keeps us going.
In past newsletters, we focus mostly on our courses. In these next few newsletters, we’ll focus on our people…both our Hope IT team members and some of our students.
In this newsletter, I would like to spotlight our Hope IT Technical Director, Mark Bracher, who has the final say on what technology we use and teach. Mark was the very first person to join the team, 5 ½ years ago. I have known Mark for 25+ years…losing count now. Back then, Mark and I lived in the same house with 4 to 6 other guys, all working in either the junior high or high school ministry of our church across the street, in Highland Park. Mark is kind, generous, honest and humble.
We are old friends. We both graduated in Mathematics from Occidental College in Los Angeles (Eagle Rock). He, my wife Ruth, our friend David (Mark’s best man in his wedding), and I played many board games. He was one of our Scripture readers at Ruth and my wedding. Mark helped Ruth and I move into our first home in Altadena. Mark is technical, and uses that creatively. For example, he brews his own beer. He has a sign in his dining room now, a gift from his friend David: “Beer, so much more than a breakfast drink.”
Mark has always been a professional programmer. I know very few better engineers. Originally he intended to be a math professor, so math comes up in our Hope IT courses. Here are two examples of courses Mark created.
Our course in February 2019 was to create cameras out of Raspberry Pis. Getting the idea from RedHat’s presentation at the Linux EXPO, SCaLE, Mark used his personal 3D printers to print the cases for the cameras. Getting it right took many tries. It had to have the right holes for monitor cables and the other cables, fit the small touch screen, and hold the Raspberry Pi inside. It takes 8 hours to print a camera case. After several iterations, he created 8 camera cases for the Hope IT course. In the top picture he is showing our students how to fit everything inside. On the 3rd Saturday of the course, we walked the students around CalTech, taking pictures with their newly built cameras. Most of the pictures on our web site are from that Raspberry Pi course.
For our course in February 2020, Mark created (in Python) the maze and a robot to solve it. Students could control the robot in their Python code. If you think that was hard enough, Python isn’t even Mark’s top choice of programming languages. He also created the program to arbitrarily generate different mazes given a numerical seed, and of course, ones that are solvable, meaning there is an exit. (See a screenshot below of the maze application.) If you use the same seed, you get the same maze, to make the mazes identical and reproducible. Mazes can be small, medium, large, and robot speed is configurable. We post our source code on-line so others can benefit. (We try to do this for each course we offer.) After all this work, Mark was willing to co-teach this Python course with a new team member.
Mark is a gift to Hope IT. Mark and I are working on a Data Analysis course for this February. Mark and another Hope IT team member are working on a future robotic course in the future. We all have fun creating these courses, and teaching them.
Please pray for our students and our Hope IT team. God continues to move and work. We are fortunate to already see that occur.
Introduction to Data Analysis will be Hope IT’s course in February 2021. We will be using a tool called Google Data Studios. This will be an on-line course.
We find data so vital these days. We all have been looking at the COVID curve, and the positive cases rise. One of the core topics in IT is how understanding data and trends affects our lives, and how useful data is. Beyond COVID data, we will review other datasets as well.
Students signing up for this course with their pastor or group leader will need to be at least 13 years old, as we will be using Google Accounts to access Google Sheets and Google Data Studio. If you like a course flier, please contact us.
Hope you are well in this challenging time, with COVID, in-person schooling on hold, glaring wounds of racial injustice in our nation, and after a Presidential election like no other. This is challenging for adults. How are young folks managing these times? How can we show our youth God and his message of hope, peace, justice and mercy?
As you know, Hope IT is a Christian based effort that focuses on underserved students in Pasadena; these young folks are facing increasing number of challenges. Hope IT partners with organizations and faith communities which serve these students.
Hope IT strives to continue to offer IT/computer courses (at no cost) in this safe distancing environment. However, we have not been able to give frequent updates on what we are doing. We will continue to improve on that. We do want to tell you stories of our students, our team, and our courses in the next few months.
Gratefully, small breakthroughs have been slowly occurring in the last 9 months. Here is a summary.
We continued to offer courses in June and October, on Saturday mornings. We have had 3 students in each course.
Our courses had to be on-line, so we focused on topics that work in that format. One topic is creating websites, using WordPress. It is a good teaching environment, as we can quickly see the progress of students; we just need to see their web sites!
The Hope IT team has imagination, privilege and know-how to create an environment to allow each student to have their own website domain, to create their own websites. This is beyond what WordPress offers for free (in WordPress.org). In these Hope IT environments, students can both create/modify web pages, and use plugins. Plugins are additional features that really demonstrate the power and flexibility of WordPress. In our courses, our students used plugins to easily use page builders, track statistics on visitors to their web sites, and even use SEO, Search Engine Optimization. Our Hope IT web domains allow students to continue to explore and create beyond our course times, and we give them an extra month to do so.
This month was a first for us: having a student take 3 courses with us. This means this student is getting a breath of topics of what IT is about. He has taken a course in creating games on his Android phone, creating code in Python programming language to have a virtual robot get out of a maze, and create websites with WordPress. He is 13! What happens if he keeps going, keeps learning?
A new student this month has experienced challenging times. In God’s grace, she is surrounded by those who care for her. In partnership with others, after this WordPress course, she will get a paid position to modify a website using WordPress. She is 16! For us at Hope IT, it is very fulfilling to see a student learn skills and build confidence, and be able to directly use this new ability to get paid.
We actually had 2 courses going on at the same time. We started a new course with Stars. We have had 3 students, in a 6 week course on Wednesday nights, again learning WordPress. To see what they can do so quickly is satisfying. Stars does such a great job in nurturing and mentoring underserved kids in Pasadena. The Hope IT team looks forward to holding this kind of enrichment course with Stars again.
Our next course in February we plan to teach Data Analysis. It may not sound interesting to kids, but they will benefit. What can data show us? How is it relevant? Well, let’s see what happens to a nation if the trend of COVID infections rise! We all watch the COVID positive test curves. There are many other interesting data trends that drive our realities, like election delegates, census data in the US, education vs wage earnings, the stock market, etc. We cannot touch on all of these, but the Hope IT team thinks if we can introduce these ideas, and have kids create their own charts with raw data, they will gain a key skill for their future.
You may not know, but in each of our courses, we end with a Scripture reflection. In our Python course to solve mazes, we focused on the 3 parables of being lost in Luke 15. In our WordPress course, we focus on examples of the Word of God, being a form of remote learning, and showing the power of the Word: both in creation, God’s call to us, and the prophetic voice. Our aim is just to read the Word itself, as we know that will have its own growth in us all, students and Hope IT team members alike. We do add short comments on what these Scripture readings mean to us. We aim for kids to realize, they are not alone, and God was with them in their past, with them right now, and intends a good future for them.The Hope IT team members are volunteers and have our own challenges as well. We are professionally asked to work longer hours, and much of the time we don’t have energy for much more than work and family. Each of us has experienced big changes in our work environment in the last 2 months. Like so many others, we have to deal with layoffs, or the threat of them. True, we realize we can work remotely, are generally paid well, and are mostly stable in these challenging times.
Please pray for us: our students and the Hope IT team. In small ways, we see glimpses of God moving and working. We need to keep going, trusting in God’s good and loving ways.
Hope IT was glad to partner with Stars, offering a 6-week course in WordPress, a web site building tool. Stars for more than 20 years has been caring for underserved kids in Pasadena, offering tutoring, mentoring, and many other efforts. Hope IT adapted our on-line WordPress course to fit Star’s scheduling, offering their high schoolers enrichment opportunities on-line on Wednesday nights, for 6 weeks. There were 3 students in this session. This enrichment course started in mid-September, and finished in at the end of October. Hope IT looks forward to partnering with Stars again.
Hope IT will offer a WordPress course in October. Our team is a little low on energy, and I know everyone is finding ways to make it through this time. We think it is critical to continue to have a course, and allow students to have opportunities to learn and expand their skills.
Even though we covered WordPress in June, we think this is still a great course, so we are offering it again. WordPress allows you to make web sites quickly, easily. It is used by 30% of web sites, and knowing how it works can allow one to find those skills very useful.
WordPress also uses No Code Development, which means, you don’t need to know programming to use WordPress. I think it may surprise students to see how this is all done; the basics are not that hard, and the secret is anyone can create web sites. That’s why we want to cover this again.
We are grateful to have a WordPress course in June. It has started with 2 students, and we look to add 2 more in Week 2. This course is on-line, using GoToMeeting. It’s a little more difficult, but learning how to create web sites using WordPress allows us to learn and instruct remotely. We are covering Themes, Plugins, and creating web pages and blogs using Elementor, reviewing statistics of those visiting our web sites, search optimizations, and security.
We are also reflecting on the Word of God, and can realize it uses a remote learning style: learn about God while He does not seem near. But as we read Scripture, we begin to realize: The Word of God speaks to what is happening all around us, with COVID, protests, justice, creative power, as well as God’s calling and promises.
Sadly, Hope It had to cancel the CyberSecurity course due to COVID19. We will try offer this course next school year.
We will plan to have a course in June, most likely covering WordPress, creating web sites. We will post our plans in late April, and will explore if we can teach this remotely/on-line, if that is needed. More to come. Be safe!