Marquis Strickland, 15, pointed at the screen projection behind him and presented his HTML code to a panel of judges.
“I wrote the code for the website from scratch,” he said. Although he was being judged on his business idea, a transportation app called Pin Stop, the overall goal for the kids at the Richmond Heights Resource Center was to learn a skill they wouldn’t normally learn in school.
Richmond Heights was the most recent location of the Code Fever pop-up workshops, an intensive training program in technology. Over the course of six to eight weeks, students learn the advanced programming and entrepreneurial training to build a functioning prototype or beta launch their idea by the end of the program.
Derrick Pearson and his wife, Felecia Hatcher, started Code Fever to help kids learn technology skills. Their goal is to teach under-served minority students to code, build and create technology enterprises within their communities and inspire them to become leaders in the field.
“We want to close the education gap,” Pearson said. “Our main focus is to have creators not consumers.”
Through grant funding from the Knight Foundation, Code Fever hosts several workshops at no cost to the communities they service, including Miami Gardens and Liberty City.
“All of Miami-Dade needs help,” Pearson said. “Right now, certain schools give them basic knowledge, but a vast amount of kids don’t have access to that. In the program, some kids need to learn typing and shortcuts — basic computer literacy.”
In just a few weeks, Pearson sees how kids and parents embrace technology as a career choice.
“The parents’ mindset changes. They stop limiting computer time for their kids because it may lead to a career,” Pearson said.
On the last day of the program, the group of 29 kids waited their turn to present their website and business model.
Marquis won $100 in second place for his transportation app idea, and was bested by his little sister, 11-year-old Deshaina Strickland, who won first place with her idea, Disability Help.
The prize money is an incentive for the kids to invest into developing their application idea.
The fourth-place winner, 10-year-old Marquis Peoples hopes his business idea, Shoe Game, will become a real venture someday.
“I made a website for his app, Show Game, where you created your own shoe and people rate it,” he said.
Marquis would like to sell his app and even partner with major shoe companies, like Nike or Adidas, so people can order the shoes they customize.
Vaugh Marshall, who runs the resource center at Richmond Heights, said he has seen the kids become more motivated with this workshop and he hopes to raise money to provide more coding programs for the kids during the summer.
“This is something that people are looking for now – coders,” Marshall said. “Underprivileged kids need something else to do other than sports. Our priorities are way out of line.”