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A New Program is Encouraging Philly Teens to Become Technologists Through Sports

By: Alesia Bani

Key Insights:

  • The Innovation League is a program developed by Coded by Kids to encourage careers in innovation and technology using the model of a sports league.
  • The program is entering its second year, this time in partnership with the non-profit Build.org.
  • A total of $11,000 will be awarded to teams of students at a culminating event.

Philadelphia non-profit Coded by Kids is on a mission: to encourage children from underrepresented communities to aspire to one day become innovators. Through their Innovation League program, modeled after a sports league, the nonprofit teaches children that tech and innovation are sustainable careers. 

“We want our young people in Philadelphia to look at technology and innovation in the same way they look at sports and entertainment,” Sylvester Mobley, Coded by Kids founder and CEO, said. “We want them to see it as competitive and exciting, and most importantly, accessible. Finally, we want youth — especially youth from underrepresented communities — to see that they can ‘make it big’ through a career in tech.”

Through the 1Philadelphia initiative, Coded by Kids partnered with Build.org, a non-profit that encourages youth from under-resourced communities to become entrepreneurs, to create the free program. The league is for “entrepreneurial and creative Philadelphia high school students” who are interested in solving problems in their community. 

Students will work to create a solution to how they might develop entrepreneurial solutions to everyday challenges for people in their schools and communities, using Build’s curriculum. 

“In order to work toward that solution, students will be introduced to one of the five phases of the human-centered design process — Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test — as they explore stories of diverse people living in their communities,” Danae Mobley, COO of Coded by Kids, told The Plug.

“They will then work collaboratively in teams, using their innate talents and imagination, to propose innovative solutions to everyday problems in their schools and communities,” she said.

Last year’s program ran in partnership with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

There are 60 slots open for the 2022-23 season. Students will be placed into teams of three to five individuals and learn how to build businesses and use technology to create innovative solutions over the course of seven weeks.

“By opening the competition to the entire city, we hope to get a diverse and enthusiastic set of students participating in this year’s league,” Danae Mobley said.

Similar to a sports season, students will attend weekly practices and events and compete with other teams. Mentors from local tech companies will be assigned to students to guide them through weekly design challenges. 

This year, the Innovation League will run in a hybrid format because Coded by Kids received feedback from its students that they prefer a virtual experience during the week and an in-person experience on the weekend.

The program is receiving support from local organizations like Comcast NBCUniversal, TD Bank and Penn Mutual, among others. 

At the end of the season, students will compete in the “Innovation Bowl” for a chance to win awards and prizes up to $5,000 with a total of $11,000 to be awarded. During the culminating competition, judges will select who came up with the best solution to the problem question they workshopped during the program.

“We want students to compete in and enjoy entrepreneurship the same way they compete in

sports and other clubs,” Danae Mobley said. “We hope that this experience helps students understand that technology and innovation is a space that they belong in.”

 
 

Alesia Bani

Alesia Bani is a writer and journalist from Philadelphia and The Plug’s Innovation Reporter covering the Black tech ecosystem in Philadelphia. She previously worked for the Institutional Diversity office at her alma mater Temple University and has a background in reporting on identity, DEI and local government.
Contact: alesia@tpinsights.com

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