At WEX, we’re passionate about nurturing youth exploration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) because these fields offer diverse learning and professional opportunities. That’s why we recently hosted 17 boys and girls for a day to learn some coding essentials and build their own apps. The event was part of CodeX, a program we developed in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine.
CodeX is the brainchild of Ryan Taylor, our VP of virtual payments who has recently been invited to join the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club. Taylor saw a partnership between WEX and the club as a great opportunity for kids who might not otherwise be exposed to STEM learning. We were in agreement, especially since we’re always looking for ways to become more involved with our charitable partners beyond a financial relationship.
“This program helps kids build real world skills in a very exciting, cutting edge technology. How wonderful for them to walk into a corporate office and see what that’s like and meet professionals that work there. It may help them think ‘maybe someday that could be me,’” observed Karen MacDonald, chief operating officer of the Boys & Girls Club.
The CodeX Experience
The kids at our recent CodeX session were greeted by Taylor and a team of 10 WEXers who provided support. Ranging in age from 8 to 13, the kids were evenly divided between boys and girls. A few were even coming back for their second CodeX session. Both veterans and first-timers were eager to get to work, following a curriculum developed by Taylor to teach basic coding skills to beginners and more advanced skills to returning coders.
Working with Google Chromebooks and tablets, some donated by WEX to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, the kids had everything they needed to build an app. By the end of the day, everyone had built a “Magic 8-ball” app, a “Whack-a-Mole” game, a Spanish to English translation app, and a whiteboard finger-painting app that allowed them to draw on their tablets. Breaking up the morning and afternoon coding sessions were a pizza luncheon, a visit by a local ice cream truck, and some games outside to blow off steam. Check out the video re-capping the day below:
Click the image above to view the video.
The impact of CodeX can be seen almost immediately. For example, one boy came with little exposure to STEM skills – he didn’t even have a computer at home. Taylor notes that the boy exhibited remarkable natural coding ability, and by the end of the day, had said he now wants to be a software engineer. It just goes to show if you give someone an opportunity, there’s no telling where they will go.
According to Taylor, the CodeX experience is just as rewarding for employees as it is for the youth. “When you’re working with the kids, you see them light up when they create their first app. Then they start to change and move and add things, and you get this moment of discovery that’s pretty impactful for everyone involved,” he notes.
After just our second CodeX session, it’s clear the program is resonating with youth. Looking ahead, Taylor is working with our philanthropy team on a schedule for future sessions with the Boys & Girls Clubs, and is thinking about ways to extend CodeX to other nonprofit organizations. Because at the end of the day, WEX, and companies like us, has a vested interest in growing the pool of STEM-savvy talent, and early exposure to these skills creates a win-win situation for everyone involved.
For more coverage of this great story, you can watch WMTW’s feature here.