TSU-Apple Coding Initiative Introduces Girls To Coding and STEM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University recently partnered with Apple, Inc. to teach middle and high school girls how to code, as well as consider careers in STEM.

Youth from ages 6 to 19 from various schools, including McKissack Middle School and HIllsboro High School, had the opportunity to experience coding at a free camp on Nov. 2, 9 and 16 in TSU’s Farrell Westbrook Complex (The Barn) on the main campus.

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted about the camp: “We’re proud to team up with @TSUedu and @nc100bwinc to show girls in Nashville how coding can help them realize their dreams. Can’t wait to see where your imaginations take you! “

Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU’s dean of Graduate and Professional Studies, serves as the program director for the coding initiative.

“We were able to introduce these girls to coding in a very fun, active and stimulating way,” she said.  “The students were only supposed to pick one Saturday, but some of the girls came back every Saturday.”

During the camp, participants moved around to different stations where they learned basic coding principles, and “actually coded drones and robots to move and function.”

Melton said because of the success of the camp, her office has received requests from local high schools, as well as schools in Memphis, Clarksville and Shelbyville that hope to explore coding.

“The students went back to their schools and talked to their teachers, and because of that we are now having special sessions for schools,” Melton said.  “We got a call from Hillsboro High School’s parent community where we went on Monday to do ‘Everyone Can Code. Everyone Can Create.’ Antioch is also on board. These are schools that have reached out because of their students to say, ‘Hey, can we have more?  Can we bring students to you, or can you all come to us?”

Students from various schools in Nashville gather for photo following a free coding camp held in TSU’s Farrell Westbrook Complex. (Submitted Photo)

In July, TSU launched  HBCU C2 “Everyone Can Code and Create,” a national initiative supported by Apple, which seeks to bring coding experiences to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and underserved communities. The initiative is part of TSU’s newly established National Center for Smart Technology Innovations, created through the  HBCU C2 Presidential Academy. The girls coding camp is an extension of the initiative.

Dr. Veronica Johnson is president of the Metro Nashville Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., which partnered with TSU and Apple. She said black women and girls are “vastly underrepresented” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as performing arts.

“By exposing STEM projects at an early age, it could help increase their chances of exploring these fields, as they pursue academic degrees and seek future career opportunities,” Johnson said. “Having access to develop needed skill sets to survive in the 21st digital landscape will be critical to the economic impact of the future of black communities.”

Eleven-year-old Genesis Wells, who attends Cresswell Middle Prep School of the Arts, said she found out about the camp from her mother, Ariel Wells, who works at TSU.

Genesis Laniah Wells, a student at Cressell Middle Prep School of the Arts, attended the girls’ coding camp with her mom Ariel Wells, who works at TSU. (Submitted Photo)

“I enjoyed playing in Swift Playgrounds the most and GarageBand,” she said. “I enjoyed Swift Playgrounds because you get to control a character named Bright and make him collect coins, and it makes your brain think a little bit. I enjoyed GarageBand because I got to make beats and I love music, so that’s just a dream for me.”

Wells, who aspires to be a singer, actor and dancer, said she is also considering a career as a pediatrician.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of TSU’s College of Engineering, said the camp was also beneficial to the participants’ parents, or guardians.

“The program also informs parents and adults about the digital world of information technology, and how as individuals you can take control of your learning and knowledge based on your own needs and career goals,” said Hargrove. “The ability to manage information and make data-driven decisions will continue to be a major skill for today and tomorrow’s workforce”

TSU has been charged with strengthening the collaboration by offering the company’s coding curriculum to new audiences. That expansion also includes providing TSU alums the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of app design and app development for free.

To date, TSU has impacted 32 HBCUs with the  HBCU C2 Initiative, including visiting every HBCU in Arkansas and meeting with a representative from each HBCU located in Louisiana. Melton said in April 2020 Apple will establish an HBCU Appstore, where HBCUs can share the various apps they have created. 

“If you can dream it, we can design it and we can code it. Everyone is not going to be a coder, but everyone can think and create.,” she said. “We leave every academy with apps that they have designed to address a community, an education or a workforce need.”

Also in July, TSU launched the first community “Everyone Can Code and Create” initiative for youth on its Avon Williams Campus. The initiative is also part of the National Center for Smart Technology Innovations.

For more information about the girls coding camp, contact [email protected], or call 615-963-7269.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.