Named for a classic critical thinking puzzle, 9 Dots was founded in 2011 by a passionate group of engineers and educators who believe all kids deserve the chance to imagine a career in engineering. We especially saw a need in communities that lack the types of programming that we had access to growing up - programming that teaches engineering and technology and helps develop students’ problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills. We set out to create a science, technology, engineering, and math program in Los Angeles (well before “STEM” was a thing). What started in a small classroom as an after-school project to teach STEM skills in a fun, engaging way, quickly evolved into something far more ambitious.
In our first few years running as an after-school program, we saw amazing results; students achieved unprecedented improvements in their standardized test scores and their general attitude towards STEM changed for the better. While our after-school program was making an incredible impact on our students, however, we saw the opportunity to do more. In the summer of 2013, we launched devY - our summer and weekend coding camp. With devY, we were able to take a deeper dive into computer science with our students, a subject that we see as a critical skill in our quickly evolving workforce. In the same year, we also launched our first in-school program, getCoding, to help integrate coding into the curriculum at the public schools many of our students attend. By providing both out-of-school and in-school opportunities for our students, we truly feel like we are able to give them a leg up in achieving any future they may choose.
But we haven’t stopped there. At 9 Dots, we are constantly striving to learn more about education, especially with regards to technology and engineering. In the Fall of 2016, we embarked upon our first research project in partnership with the National Science Foundation, UCLA, and UC Berkeley. Through our research we are investigating how students and teachers can face obstacles in learning coding fearlessly and resiliently. It is our hope that this research will not only help inform best teaching practices at 9 Dots, but for the teaching community at large.