How a Chicago Tech Power Couple is Teaching a Billion Kids to Code

Katy Lynch wants a billion kids to learn how to code. And she stepped down from her job as CEO of Techweek, to pursue her passion and launch her second start-up this year in Chicago.

Using today’s technology and building a new, simpler code syntax called KidScript, Lynch is transforming a seemingly solo and challenging endeavor – learning how to code – into a collaborative, empowering and interactive program.

Over the past 15 months, Lynch partnered with her husband and former start-up co-founder of Belly, Craig Ulliott. Ulliott and Lynch had previously built the digital media firm, SocialKaty, which was acquired by Manifest Digital in 2014. Together again, this tech power couple created Codeverse, the world’s first hackable classroom and vertically integrated technology platform designed to teach children ages 6 to 12 the vital skill of coding.

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A Mission-Driven Business:

“My husband and I have a lot of shared experience in the tech world and educating the next generation of tech stars has always been important to us. This was one of the reasons we jumped into the tech space to create Codeverse,” Lynch shared.

As an experienced start-up founder, Lynch stresses the importance of defining your mission.

“Define your mission, your vision, and your values early on – that dictates your company culture and who you hire. For Codeverse, we came up with the mission statement – ‘teach a billion kids to code’. We are a mission-driven business.”

To develop this kid’s coding program, Lynch and Ulliott hired an in-house curriculum team and worked with a large group of certified K-12 teachers for over a year.

“We’ve conducted over 450 product demos with kids, and all have them completed Codeverse. They’ve generated their own app or game in 20 minutes. It’s gratifying to get kids excited early on.”

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Is Learning How to Code Really That Easy?

With coding, there are many different languages to learn such as HTML and Python and Ruby.

“There are multiple ways to perform one action with different languages. Many of these languages are way too advanced for kids to learn,” Lynch explains, ” I’m 32, and it’s difficult for me!”

To assimilate kids to learn to code, the Codeverse team built their real programming language based on the core concepts, of other languages, such as “if” statements, variables, and loops.

“The thing that makes this awesome is if a child wants to learn another language, like Ruby, it’s easy to transition,” said Lynch.

As kids learn to code, the program adapts to their learning needs by giving kids more or fewer lessons depending on how easy it is for them to advance to the next level.

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Building a Collaborative Environment for Kids to Code:

One aspect of Codeverse is the virtual world, but the second dimension of the business plan is the physical one.

“We’ve done a lot of research – we want kids to code in a collaborative environment,” Lynch shared.

Social interaction plays an integral part in the development process for children, and the support provided by the teaching specialists aids in the learning process.

When starting a business plan as an entrepreneur, Lynch shares that you want to take steps to relay to your investors that “you are a) the right person for the job and b) that you can prove you can scale.”

To do this, she advises to do your research and define your competitive landscape. Think about your business model, and how your business is going to generate revenue.

For Codeverse, Lynch created a new business model by creating a physical space for kids to learn to code together. Upon entering the studio, they pick up an iPad with their name on it. Using the iPad, they can write code that manipulates components of the studio, like activating drones, robotic arms or 3D printers. The million-dollar facility is also full of collaborative and social elements, such as a 20-foot screen where 10 children can collaborate on coding challenges at a single time.

“If you’re sitting in the Codeverse studio and you want to change the lights from white to red,” Lynch said, “We give the tutorials on how to do that. You’re coding to have that end result.”

While the adaptive program is online, there is an on-site staff of certified K-12 teachers from the Chicagoland area in the Codeverse studio.

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Codeverse Launches in Lincoln Park:

The first location will open in Chicago in Lincoln Park in July 2017 with plans to expand to three additional locations in Chicago and ultimately, nationally and internationally.

Codeverse has many different types of memberships based on after-school or summer session.

“The ultimate goal is that kids are coming into the space to have fun, be creative and collaborate with peers to build and create apps and games,” Lynch said.

Parents can sign-up or learn more about the memberships starting at $125 a month by visiting Codeverse.

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