March 19, 2019

This California-based nonprofit shows that a little bit of coding can change a lot of lives

Meet the finalists for the 2019 Renewal Awards, a program of The Atlantic and Allstate. Five winners will receive a $20,000 prize from Allstate.

Los Angeles-based 9 Dots provide students in low-income neighborhoods with computer science education. Photo courtesy of the nonprofit

Editor’s note: Meet the finalists for 2019 The Renewal Awards. The annual program that honors nonprofits that are creatively solving problems in their communities is a project of The Atlantic and Allstate. This year, five winners each will receive a $20,000 prize from Allstate. Winners will be announced April 3 at The Renewal Summit in New York City. You can watch a live stream of the event, which begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT, on our Facebook page.

There’s been a huge push toward coding and computer science education in the past several years. Classes have cropped up for everyone from adults looking for a career switch to teens looking to build fun apps. But what about the youngest students?

Enter nonprofit 9 Dots. Developed in 2011 by engineers and educators, the organization works to provide students in grades K-6 with computer science education.

Josh Taylor, 9 Dots founder and executive director believes that with technology playing a greater part in the 21st century economy, STEM education that encourages creative thinking and problem solving skills is crucial at an early age. Even the organization’s name came from a classic critical thinking puzzle.

[ Read: Meet the finalists for the 2019 Renewal Awards ]

“For the low-income and underrepresented students we serve, 9 Dots’ services mean a pathway to opportunity,” said Taylor.

The organization’s flagship Get Coding program brings computer science and coding classes during the school day to Title I schools, those with large concentrations of low-income students, in California. They also offer summer and weekend coding camps, which offers a deeper dive into computer science.

As of this year, 9 Dots has partnered with 21 schools and 186 teachers to ensure that 5,000 children will participate in one of their programs weekly.

In 2016, the nonprofit also launched a research project with the National Science Foundation, UCLA, and UC Berkeley that focuses on learning obstacles in the computer science field.

And 9 Dots has evidence that these programs work. After surveying students who completed the Get Coding class, they found that 86 percent of students want to take another class and 88 percent identify themselves as coders.

So what’s next on the horizon for the organization? They have an ambitious goal of reaching 200,000 students and 8,000 teachers, all at 400 schools by the year 2025.

“9 Dots will know that we’ve succeeded when every student regardless of gender, race, or income status, has equitable access to an early, high-quality computer science education that prepares them to compete for tomorrow’s jobs and become leaders and decision-makers in the new digital age,” said Taylor.

Follow 9 Dots on Twitter @9dots. Donate to the nonprofit here.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the deputy editor of The Renewal Project.