Dream It And Code It

A few months ago, I posted about a student coding contest called Dream It Code It Win It. I attended the awards contest last night at The Great Hall at Cooper Union. I love that space. You feel the history when you walk into the room.

The majority of the event was a panel event which in my opinion was a waste of time. I wanted to see the students present their projects. Which sadly did not happen. But the students were invited up onto the stage to collect their awards.

In the high school category, almost half of the participants were women. That is a fantastic stat and hopefully a sign of things to come with women and coding.

I was super excited to see a team from The Academy For Software Engineering win one of the awards. That is a great accomplishment for a school that hasn’t yet completed its second year. Here is the team from AFSE getting its award.

afse students


It was also really fantastic that The Young Women’s Leadership Academy (an all girls high school in NYC) fielded a winning team. I’ve heard great things about that school.

Not surprisingly Stuyvesant High School had three winning teams. The Stuyvesant CS program has been around for almost twenty years and its leader Mike Zamansky is one of the unsung heroes of the NYC tech scene.

Mike sent me videos last night after the event for the three winning teams from Stuy. One of them is so good, I think it would easily get funded on AngelList. It’s called Cartwheels (great name) and here’s the video.

These kids eat at food carts every day, they dreamed of a better way, they built it, and they won it. That’s awesome.

#entrepreneurship#hacking education#NYC

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    This screams to be a mobile App, but is it a feature or a product/business?Let Foursquare hire them and incorporate that into their existing app.

    1. fredwilson

      if you watch the video through to the end (i know its a tad long), you will see that they are coding iOS and Android right now. and i totally agree i think its different enough from foursquare that it should be a separate business

      1. William Mougayar

        I saw that, and their vision to revolutionize the cartwheel industry is a tall one. Bar codes or QR codes is a great idea. It’s like labelling cows.Locating the carts is similar to Foursquare functionality, but revolutionizing that industry segment is not.

        1. awaldstein

          You a believer in QR codes? To date they are non starters.Every possible industry and marketing org tried them. No one uses them.QR codes and readers, and commerce on Facebook are two of the greatest ideas that never panned out over the last decade.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Haven’t investigated, but I bet within a warehouse in a B2B situation they are efficient.

          2. awaldstein

            Barcodes for certain but QR codes–do share if you have examples.I was the largest believer back when:–>QR codes bridging the public information gap in New York http://awe.sm/aJbcxI'm not sure I have a reader on my phone anymore.A great idea. Not a behavior that has become a social reflex.

          3. pointsnfigures

            http://www.barcodesinc.com/… One article. I know some folks at Motorola that were really excited about them.

          4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            But QR codes still seem to hang around. I was a believer at one point as well but it has not panned out. However, their stickiness might indicate that they may be resurrected one day with the proper use cases.

          5. awaldstein

            You can say that about most anything that sounded great but didn’t make it.Video chat is a good example.

          6. William Mougayar

            I’m not tied to QR codes. Bar codes are fine. Either one is OK, as long as it’s scannable and contains information.

          7. awaldstein

            In any circumstance over the last month have you seen a QR code being used?Every day, bar codes are in the chain of transaction almost everywhere a sale is made.

          8. Matt Zagaja

            I think there are a few people at UPS that might disagree. Made a difference in the logistics industry and was a natural evolution from the bar code.Sometimes you just have to ignore the marketers. 😉

          9. awaldstein

            Vertical and custom b2b solutions are certainly where they live. Not in the consumer realm.

          10. LE

            Yeah I was thinking something similar when I read the bitcoin seeding post the other day. (MIT students getting $100 of bitcoin).Bitcoin isn’t the low hanging fruit of opportunity. Business is 99% about taking advantage of and executing on the low hanging fruit of opportunity. The act of having to even do what they did (the giveaway) to me means there is serious mainstream lack of interest in bitcoin. At least as it is packaged today in terms of benefits.Bottom line is it’s not solving a problem that people have at least in mass enough to create the tipping point that will keep it growing.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Isn’t there symmetry to this scenario when it comes to the recent announcement of Soundcloud offering band management tools?

  2. JimHirshfield

    What apps won the other prizes?

    1. fredwilson

      i will see if i can get a list of them

  3. awaldstein

    The robotics kids from Stuyvesant took over a street corner near my place in TriBeCa last weekend with their robots.So cool–a bunch of high school kids sitting on the sidewalk raising funds with giant robots taped together in crazy monster looking shapes, gathering a huge crowd.This is goodness in my book!

    1. fredwilson

      i would have loved to see that (and support them)

    2. William Mougayar

      Did you take any pics?

      1. awaldstein

        Nope…My Saturday mornings have become sacrosanct lately. Early morning interval training at the gym, wandering through the green market buying food and just unwinding, unshaved and easy. Chatting with the fish guys and bumping into the owner of the wine shop. Letting myself get excited by little things like that ramps are back in season, the silliness of buying one scallop for Sam-the-cat.I’ve found lately that just falling into the moment and forgetting about everything else, is just what I need a few times a week.

        1. Guest

          Here you go.

          1. awaldstein

            On the street with dogs and kids bumping into robots, baby carriages and bags of vegetables from the market–a bit less clean and poised;)

        2. Dave W Baldwin

          Here you go Arnold. This isn’t FRC, it’s a couple of my FTC members doing a show for some kids at Boys & Girls Club this past week.Can’t get on of the vids to load on the page.

          1. awaldstein


          2. Dave W Baldwin

            Adam Elfrink, who built the robot carrying the lego block out of some spare parts is something else. He is no nonsense and has the patience of Job.

        3. Dave Pinsen

          Surprised your cat eats shellfish.

          1. awaldstein

            Sam is not kosher.(And he only eats sea not bay scallups and only freshly caught.He’s come a long way from being a feral cat living on the streets in Harlem.)

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Mine aren’t either, but they don’t like shell fish. They prefer fatty fin fish like salmon or tuna. Big fans of the Scottish salmon at Houston’s.

  4. William Mougayar

    I wonder what the stats are for the density of food carts by cities around the world. Any data? I couldn’t find it. Would Istanbul, Bangkok or Mumbai beat New York?

    1. awaldstein

      Highly regulated here and in places like Singapore. The density of carts and food trucks is set in stone.

      1. pointsnfigures

        The food stands in Singapore are some of the best eating you will ever do. I had a thai marinated duck breast sate there that was incredible.

        1. awaldstein

          No question. I was there one day a month for four years straight and watched, no ate, that evolution!Maniacally regulated from the government that caned you for chewing gum.

  5. aelloyd

    Cartwheels is a great idea – helping an underserved market solve a real painpoint and their customers find them. The presentation was missing the ever important addressable market point. Can this get big, in revenue terms, for Cartwheels. I believe it can, but they need to tell us how – advertising, pre-ordering and taking a commission, premium services?

    1. bsoist

      I absolutely love that this is a solution that meets a real need. I’m growing tired of seeing products that exist solely to convince me I need them.

      1. aelloyd

        Quite right! But as an investor, it’s always frustrating when a great idea isn’t backed up by an idea of how big the opportunity is. They will know the answer, so should tell us. All that said, when I was at high school I was no where near as sophisticated as these guys… I just think this feedback is useful to them if they want to get investors on board

        1. LE

          My understanding is that this is a group of people doing this project not a single person, right?Back in my day there wasn’t a group of like minded people interested in business so there wasn’t really a way to flock together and work off each others strengths (or family help/connections). So that is really the key to something like this.That said people did absolutely do entrepreneurial things but not with technology obviously. And the cost to do anything (as a real business) was prohibitive so you had to really wing it on a small scale. Or cut significant corners. The good news was you encountered many issues and were prepared for when things went to a larger scale (because you had nobody but yourself to rely on).

      2. fredwilson

        yeah, that’s why i liked it

    2. LE

      Have to admit that I don’t buy food at food carts and never have.That said if I had to eat food from a cart I would guess that the busy carts have already been vetted by the masses as being the usual suspects of quality and price in a given area.

  6. pointsnfigures

    For me, I don’t care if they are doing mobile apps or web apps. I am just glad they are thinking this way-and acting to provide a solution.

  7. Jonathan Libov

    Through the first minute of that video you can hear how genuine the narrator’s enthusiasm is. Really love that. That kind of unbridled enthusiasm is impossible to imitate.

    1. fredwilson

      totally agree

    2. Matt A. Myers

      This is a really insightful comment from someone your age, based on how young you look in your profile picture. 😉

  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    What was AFSENYC’s project?

    1. fredwilson

      i will see if they can send me the video and i will post it

  9. Richard

    This is a great project for a highschool team. But, if this was a run of the mill entrepreneur, would this be an angel worthy ? I mention this because kids are impressionable. These kids are under the age of 18 and presumably college bound. Are we sure that their parents understand and/or have thought through the risks and rewards of a highschool child taking venture money for a food cart app? College means one of these kids could be coding software for a genetics engineering problem in just two or three years. Maybe optimizing lunch for tourists is not really the path least chosen?

    1. Elia Freedman

      Food carts are huge here in Portland and there are actually a couple of apps that help you find them and rate them. Not VC worthy, though.

      1. Richard

        Yep I wasn’t speaking specifically to this app (which my guess there are dozens like it), but more to the general idea of getting highschool kids too worked up about being the next Facebook/Led Zeppelin. Let’s remember as far as technology, we have high school kids and that means (by definition) what we really have is modern day “highschool (thought somewhat rare) level programing”. If the team does include a teen prodigee, chances are she is likely selling herself short . That said, I think the entrepreneur lifestyle, even for a teen, can be, for some, a smart start to a career.

        1. Elia Freedman

          Agreed. In my experience you either have the urge to “create and share,” even in high school, or you don’t. Identifying those that do, whether high school or later, is very important.My daughter’s second grade class is building a market. They took a trip to the mall to interview and understand existing businesses and are all now building their goods to sell to other students and parents at the school.This is incredible lesson, introducing her to entrepreneurship at such an awesomely young age.

    2. Cam MacRae

      All great points.Might make a nice gap year project for these kids… although I hope they find time to sink a few Bintang on the beach too.

    3. LE

      Yeah rarely discussed is the lost opportunity cost of any decision that takes time and money. Things are always justified as good without taking that into account. Back in my day it was “a law degree is always good to have”. As if three years of school (cost wasn’t really that much of a factor back then) getting accepted, tests, stress all of that was trivial. I thought that was stupid back then and it’s obviously a non starter now.Parent’s also do that now with respect to after school activities. They will justify what a kids does by saying it’s better than hanging out at the mall. Without respect to whether what they are doing is really the best use of time. (And yes kids do need guidance it’s not all about what they want to do and think is best.)

      1. Richard

        There is also the issue of maturity and capacity.

    4. John Rhoads

      1. I think the spirit if the investment comment was on the people not the business concept. 2. I agree complex trade offs exist.3. Very few people start off changing the world. Elton started at PayPal. Google was a better Yahoo when it launched. There is something to be said for doubling down on small successes until you have the various resources you need to tackle the really hard things.

      1. Richard

        |But……Serge, Larry and Elon were all PHD students

    5. John Rhoads

      1. I think the spirit of the investment comment was on the people not the business concept. 2. I agree complex trade offs exist.3. Very few people start off changing the world. Elon started at PayPal. Google was a better Yahoo when it launched. There is something to be said for doubling down on small successes until you have the various resources you need to tackle the really hard things.

    6. Twain Twain

      Entrepreneurial spirit goes from the lemonade stand, selling sweets out of our lockers, bartering exchange of in-kind goods when we’re in junior school.High schoolers do food cart apps.Eventually some of that entrepreneurial spirit will lead them to become Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson, Jack Dorsey and others as their intellect and skills mature in their 20s, 30s, 40s and on.After all, some of the world’s most innovative founders started out selling sweets and lemonade not software and hardware.

  10. Chris Phenner

    Food Cart reviews? What’s next, aero bed reservations in people’s apartments?!The Atomic Level of street meat! That is a great name and idea.

  11. John Rhoads

    Curveball: Anchorage!

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, that through me for a loop too

      1. John Rhoads

        And here we are talking about it. think it worked

      2. thebigmix

        annoying correction: “threw”

  12. jason wright

    Uber Cart, coming soon to a corner near you.

  13. kenberger

    At the Great Hall, Cooper Union on February 27, 1860: “Abraham Lincoln (not yet a presidential candidate) gave a dramatic and persuasive speech that earned him national attention and set him on the road to the White House.”

    1. fredwilson

      you can still feel his presence in there

  14. Lou Landau

    I like the way you ended your email better… 🙂 and it right away hit me, I don’t think I ever saw you use the word. And I @##$% LOVED it. I’m very curious why you edited it. thx

  15. GoGirls!

    >> What apps won the other prizes?Yes, can you tell us about the other winners, especially the girls as you mentioned? What other schools were finalists?

  16. sigmaalgebra

    So, for Cartwheels, they needed:(1) Dream Stage. Conceive of the project. Hopefully document the results of that stage.(2) High Level Design Stage. Outline the project at a high level with, say, an Internet connection, an operating system, Web server software, a programming language for generating the Web pages on the server, outline of the user interface (UI) with screens and ‘controls’ (text boxes, buttons, etc.), a database system, a database schema, a software development environment, hopefully suitable for working in teams, server and server farm local area network (LAN) system management and administration, system security, system backup and recovery, and system and network monitoring. Document this work, at least for all members of the development team.(3) Hardware Planning. Get an idea how much hardware they needed, e.g., one server or several servers communicating, maybe with some parallelism.(4) Starting the Work. Get the hardware and outside software, assemble the hardware, install and configure the software. Put some test data into the database. Write a document that describes the system and its pieces.(5) Doing the Main Work. Allocate the work across teams and people. Write the software and do code reviews and unit tests and debugging, Document at the ‘unit’ level. Grow to system tests and debugging. Evaluate performance and timing.(6) Alpha Test. Do an alpha test and revise to fix bugs and improve the user experience (UX).(7) Beta Test and Going Live. Do more testing and do rest of work needed to go live. Go live.(8) Postmortem. Review the work and see what went wrong and how might do better in the future.Notice that except for just serendipity most of the potential of the project was determined in (1) Dream Stage. So, if want a project to be a big splash, and don’t want to count on luck, then need to do some good thinking in Dream Stage. There think about (A) Need, nice to have or must have, (B) market size, that is, potential number of users/customers, (C) strategies for growth, e.g., mobile, ‘network’ effects, virality, barriers to entry, own and others. and (D) advantage, technological or other. And more.Extract some project ‘metrics’ in lines of code, lines of code per worker-hour, failures and re-dos, delays from unexpected problems, etc.Extract some lessons in ‘project, planning, organization, and management’.So, these steps (1)-(7) never mentioned Cartwheels but are generic and nearly universal for most small Web application projects and also crucial for most large projects.So, given that these students were successful with this project, it follows that they learned a lot that would serve them well with larger projects. And, beyond the narrow technical topics, they had to learn to work effectively in teams.Sounds like good education that many employers would be willing to pay for. Sounds like a good start on a career.Still, I would suggest that they go to college.If my project takes off, maybe I’ll make some offers to some such people! For my project, gave up on getting the bugs out of de/serialization in my production code, went off on the side and wrote some simple as possible software, got clarification of the problems and solutions, will document the problems and solutions some more, and then will use the solutions on the production code! Likely some of those students had to work through such steps; good for them!A teacher who could lead the work on Cartwheels, i.e., a good ‘chief programmer’ or software project development manager, might be able to get a job that pays a few times what school teaching pays! Good for NYC schools that they have such people in place!The above aside, it would be fun and maybe ‘educational’ for some of the faculty involved to describe what they did to be successful.

  17. Zaizhuang

    @derrickko:disqus you should check this out

  18. Patrick Kershaw

    did you get in trouble for bad language Fred?

  19. jason wright

    there’s Code Club here in the UK, and i think it has ambitions to go beyond the island.https://www.codeclub.org.uk/

  20. Steve Palmer

    I loved working with the mobile food vendors but it is definitely a tough nut to crack. Even though it didn’t work out, I have a profound sense of appreciation for what I have learned during the last few years. Invaluable experience.