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Founded in 2015 in Nashville, Savvy Coders expanded into St. Louis in 2016. The startup teaches front end software development skills to anyone with the desire to learn. It joins programs like LaunchCode in addressing the tech talent gap in St. Louis. Founder and CEO Elaine Queathem and her team emphasize continuing education as they teach skills necessary to design, develop, modify and maintain websites through hands-on experience.
Over the last year, Queathem was getting so many questions from adult students about how to help their kids learn to code that it inspired her to create a new program called Savvy Kids.
“Providing kids with technical skills early on gives them really valuable and portable skills as they continue through the K-12 educational system,”Queathem says. “It might also give them a true alternative to the post-secondary school model of the traditional four-year college degree.”
Savvy Kids is a seven-week program for 10-13 year-olds launching in April that introduces the fun of creating web graphics, the discipline of planning a design project, and the satisfaction of putting it all together with an entrepreneurial twist. Martin Holloway, a design student in St. Louis and Savvy Coders intern, worked with Queathem to design the program based on his experience working with kids at a design camp focused on photography and digital art. “At the Design Academy Summer Camp, it was my first introduction to working with young people and sharing my passions. I’ve been doing this since I could first pick up a pencil. Just being able to share my passion with other people that want to learn about it–it was awesome. Having had that experience, I could see how it could really transition to a coding class.”
Once Queathem and Holloway had the curriculum finalized, they hosted a focus group in December of 2016 to gauge how real kids would respond to the program. Holloway said, “We tried to get them to understand the concept of brainstorming. Make them understand that what you see on the computer all starts up here (in your head). It doesn’t just magically happen. You can create an idea, and from there you can follow steps through graphic design and design the graphics that you want on your website. Once you learn some of the more technical skills for the coding, you can plug in the graphics and have a beautiful website.”
Queathem felt strongly that whatever the program would be, it had to be fun. And, she found that kids are natural entrepreneurs. “During the brainstorm in the focus group, the girls came up with the idea of a Pet Adoption website,” she says. Holloway liked the idea. He says, “When I was a kid, of course, I tried to start my own entrepreneurial ventures, but you know technology has changed since then. There are more resources available. Maybe building a website can help to further their goals of what they want to achieve at a younger age.”
Queathem has big plans for Savvy Kids. There are infinite directions this program could go based on the variety of technologies available. She said, “I want every single student to have the desire to continue after the first seven-week course. I want them, once they try it, to not want to stop.”
The next session of Savvy Kids begins Saturday, April 15. Savvy Coders is hosting its second free “Coding Fair” for SavvyKids on Saturday, April 15 at SketchPad co-working space at 930 Kehrs Mill Road from 10am-12pm. Attendees receive $50 off tuition for the seven-week program. Contact Elaine Queathem for more information.