Matt Dillabough and Max Colbert, the two 14-year-olds behind the Menlo App Academy, have a mission to teach the USA to code. And that could fill a growing need for U.S. employers.
The two entrepreneurs are adamant. This is one economic train the U.S. can't miss.
"Millions of high-paying programming jobs are out there, but they're going to others," says Matt Dillabough, shaking his head in quiet frustration. "If we can spark an interest in this area in kids, those jobs can be filled here."
Max Colbert nods. "Learning to (write computer ) code should be like learning to read," he says. "Everyone uses apps on phones and tablets, but how many know how to make them?"
What's remarkable about what these two are saying isn't their commentary, it's their age. Dillabough and Colbert are both 14.
As founders of the Menlo App Academy, Dillabough and Colbert have spent a good deal of time in the past year teaching other kids how to write digital code.
As if replacing a paper route with teaching gigs weren't enough, the duo now hope to land a $250,000 grant from the Packard Foundation. Their goal: teach 25 coding-capable teachers who will in turn teach 2,500 other teachers over two years, so they can fan out and spread the gospel of programming to kids nationwide.
"We want to take this to the next level," says Dillabough, an affable kid who enjoys tennis and wants to be "a CEO of a company that can change world."
"Max and I had to write up a budget, a mission statement and explain (to the foundation) how we were going to track our achievements," he says. "Right now, we have seven laptops. We need 100 to get things started."
Adds Colbert: "Very few people know how to code, but we think all kids should know how."
That's the mission of Code.org, a non-profit founded by Internet entrepreneur Hadi Partovi whose pro-programming video, What Schools Don't Teach -- featuring everyone from Bill Gates to NBA star Chris Bosh singing the praises of coding -- has been viewed 20 million times.
"It's phenomenal to see kids with such entrepreneurial zeal doing this, which fundamentally shows that coding doesn't belong to some elite priesthood but that anyone can do it," says James Gwertzman, Code.org's chief evangelist.
Gwertzman says the statistics that trouble him include the fact that "100% of Chinese kids K-12 learn coding, but here only 5% do." He adds that in 2020, there will be 1.4 million programming-related jobs in the U.S., but only an estimated 400,000 qualified graduates to fill those positions. (continued...)
© 2013 USA TODAY under contract with MarketWatch. All rights reserved.
Posted: 2013-10-14 @ 11:39pm PT
I mean adults need to learn how to code too! The job market is changing. There are amazing code schools like app academy, dev bootcamp, and techcareerhq that put people in promising careers for $5-15k. The unemployment is increasing but these jobs are still in high demand. It's crazy! School is not teaching people useful skills anymore!
Posted: 2013-10-13 @ 8:02pm PT
Totally agree. The app industry is MASSIVE and only getting bigger. I quit my job a year ago to make mobile apps and it was the best thing I did - period. Kids 100% need to learn how to code. Elaine, www.thechocolatelabapps.com