Youth+Art+Code: Kids code & create art 4 community

I write software and solve problems for a living. One problem that I saw was that kids in the neighborhood were not getting hands-on exposure to coding and electronics.  Most local schools don’t teach it and even if families knew about the great coding camps “out there” they couldn’t afford to spend $300+ for their kid to attend one.  So a few years ago I recruited a small group kid-loving friends and started offering free summer coding for 5th-8th grade kids. This initial idea has grown into YouthArtCode, a place where kids come, learn and build something cool by working together.  Then we invite the greater community to come experience what they’ve built.

We serve kids in the Meadowview neighborhood of Sacramento, CA.  We recruit kids from the local schools and community to come for a three week workshop where they learn and work to build technology infused art. We are committed to offering this at no cost to the participant families.

Our fundamental purpose is to help youth (5th-8th grade) create and experience the intersection of art and technology. We use team based, collaborative projects that produce an interactive art display for the community.  Kids learn the technology, write the code, build the art exhibit and share the art with their neighbors. To foster community within our team, we provide dinner and snacks to all participants. We eat together, work together and build together.

What we do during Workshop:

Week 1:  The team members learn the coding and electronic skills needed by doing pair programming exercises. From day one we work on building an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork. Toward the end of the week we introduce mini-challenges to make sure that team members understand the fundamental skills necessary to begin working on the exhibit.

Week 2:  The team begins building the art exhibit by dividing into sub-teams, each with the goal of producing separate components for the project.  Last year we had a software team, hardware team and design team. Each member got to follow their passion and dive deeper into the production process.  During the project building phase we have daily SCRUM meetings to keep our team on track and quickly identify and solve problems.

Week 3: We split the week between a test build of the exhibit and fun diversions.  Last year we created wearable electronic jewelry and learned to solder. For 2019 we’re hoping to add programming drones!

The Exhibit:  The community is invited to come to the exhibit reception.  It’s an immersive and interactive experience that could only be created through team collaboration.  Team members take an active part, welcoming visitors and helping them create their own little piece of technology infused art.

For 2018, our project was “The Cave”. 

For 2019 Our Project is “The Garden”.  We’ve joined forces with a local paper artist to design a digital garden. The project will be a temporary electronic/digital/paper garden installation displayed outdoors in an existing natural garden area. Digital (LEDs, sensors, servos), paper, polymer, wood and glass elements will be designed and constructed by this year’s team. These elements will be placed within the natural garden to create a digital garden. As designed, some pieces will be under 3 feet, other pieces will be up to 6 feet.

This year’s project is ambitious - but the kids can do it if we help them. They are beautiful, smart, talented and eager to show what they can accomplish when given the tools to do it.  We have some materials left from last year and we have great in-kind support from community partners. But we need much more to accomplish this year’s project.

What we need to purchase:

More microcontrollers, LED Strips and few more used laptops. PLUS LED Pixels, sensors, servos, specialty paper - TONS of paper (holographic, vinyl, reflective, metallic, cardstock, etc.), glue, power supplies, wires, connectors, fiber optic thread, structural supports like bamboo and rebar, laser cutting and design of large flower bases,.

Please help.  No donation is too small.  Whatever you can you spare, we’ll take it!  $5 can buy a sensor. $15 can buy a microcontroller. $25 can buy 8 sheets of holographic vinyl paper. $100 can buy a used laptop.

All adults are volunteers who love empowering and helping kids.  We seek to offer stipends to our teen teaching assistants and peer mentors. They are our youth leaders and we want to give them a bit of money to show our appreciation for their hard work and contribution.

The ideas behind why we do things the way we do them:

Youth led and youth taught
We train and utilize teens as teaching assistants, team leads and peer mentors.  We do this because we believe that they are a perfect resource to help other youth learn.
Teach the technology then use it to create artworks
Learning coding and electronics is not the only end goal. It is a means to accomplish the end goal - a collaborative, interactive art installation.
Community building and team work
We focus on building community among the workshop participants, treating both youth and adults as important team members.  Each person is valued for who they are and the unique contributions they bring to the team.
Project based workshops
Each workshop is geared toward a project to produce a particular art installation.
Community Art Exhibition
All projects culminate with an art installation for the community.  The art installations combine technology and art. The purpose of the exhibition is two-fold: 1. Provide a novel and interactive experience to the community.  2. Provide accessible and inspirational models to youth attendees from the neighborhood.

Please help.  No donation is too small or large.  Whatever you can you spare, we’ll take it!  $5 can buy a bundle of fiber optic thread. $15 can buy a servo. $25 can buy an LED strip. $100 can buy 5 large flower bases.

With your contribution, receive an invitation to attend the exhibit in Summer 2019.  Your support means alot to us.


Azizi Penn
Freeport, CA

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