The First Annual AFSE Fundraiser

AVC folks will know that my first foray into K-12 Computer Science Education work, which has now become almost a second full-time job, was the effort four years ago to open NYC’s first dedicated computer science high school. That high school is called The Academy For Software Engineering (AFSE) and this year they will graduate their first class. Here is Tylor Fields, AFSE’s first student to be accepted to college.

Tylor Fields

There will be many more college acceptances at AFSE over the course of the next few months. And a number of AFSE students will be going on to study computer science in college.

Students at AFSE receive 4 years of computer science courses, opportunities for internships and real work experiences, and 4 years of one-on-one mentoring with professionals in the tech community. 

In addition to graduating its first class this year (with a graduation rate in excess of 90%, which is off the charts for an unscreened high school in the NYC public school system), AFSE is also doing it’s first annual fundraiser this year.

The fundraiser is on February 3 from 7-10pm at Suite36 on 16 W. 36th Street. AFSE is seeking to raise $125,000 which will give the students in the Class of 2017 the following:  

  • Each student is matched with a professional, college-educated mentor from iMentor for all 4 years of high school. This means an email each week, an in-person meeting each month,  and a go-to person for each phase of high school including completing college applications.
  • Each student receives personalized college counseling through junior and senior years, as well as financial support for SAT/ACT exams, public and private college application fees, college visits and college deposits.
  • Each student who is on track for high school graduation but not on track for college graduation is invited to participate in an intensive OneGoal course for the last two years of high school and first year of college.
  • Each student has access to job shadowing, internships, and other work-based learning experiences to build their personal resumes and apply their learning in a real world context.

If you would like to buy a ticket to the event or donate to it, you can do so here.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    Congrats to you and AFSE and congrats to Tylor and his friends. You guys are on your way. Hopefully they can rely on the network they helped build when they go to college.My friend has done a lot of work with students from underserved communities. He said there are problems with keeping kids in post-secondary school because they don’t have the personal networks to rely on helping them navigate things when inevitable problems crop up (like not getting a check so they can buy books or something that seems superfluous to most people).

  2. JLM

    .Good on ya, Fred, you’re a mensch.Arguably, the most important measure of poverty is the poverty of insufficient parenting amongst those whose parents are engaged in subsistence level employment (if they are lucky enough to even have a job).This program cracks that problem right in the teeth with a 2×4 which is what it needs.Bravo! Well played!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. JimHirshfield

      Upvote for proper use of Yiddish.

      1. JLM

        .You sort have to use a big of Yiddish w/ @LE on this blog, no?Plus my last name is ………………………..JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. LE

          Plus my last name is ………………………..And it rhymes ironically with the nickname of the guy that runs that bastion of journalistic respectability in NYC.

        2. LE

          There is a wonderful yiddish saying that my Dad dropped on me several years ago (casually as if no big deal) which translates to:”If you are going to eat like a pig, let it drip from your beard”.Unfortunately I never got it down in writing so I have to track down another old jew to give me the proper way to say it in yiddish. It had such impact. I think of that saying quite frequently. [1]Really has little to do with eating just a metaphor for certain types of behavior in life, business and relationships (or lack of thereof).[1] Works much better than the current “go big or go home” which is the closest saying I can think of that is trying to say the same thing.

          1. JLM

            .Back in a secret part of my life, I spent some time in Israel and I have heard that exact saying but in English not Yiddish.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Lawrence Brass

            If the four tuxedos could talk..

          3. JLM

            .I came to the tuxedos much later in life. In those days it would have been the jump boots. I allowed myself to be talked into doing some truly stupid things. I shudder today.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. sigmaalgebra

      Arguably, the most important measure of poverty is the poverty of insufficient parenting amongst those whose parents are engaged in subsistence level employment (if they are lucky enough to even have a job).AKA society’s social capital.

  3. JimHirshfield

    “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy Lighten up while you still can don’t even try to understand Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy”

    1. LE

      Was a shock when I heard that last night.Here is one of my favorite live videos of the Eagles. (I love the shots of the audience in particular the little kid (who is in his late 40’s now) playing the guitar.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Love it, thanks for sharing. Jackson Browne on piano!!

  4. William Mougayar

    To see the first student get accepted in college must be extremely gratifying. In 4 years, I’m sure Tylor will join a startup or create one, therefore validating even further the profound benefits this program is delivering.

  5. JimHirshfield

    Back on topic…This is so great to see. What a sense of accomplishment.

  6. JoeK

    Great job on this!I’ve been speaking to a few people about the concept of hedged donation, the general idea being to gather enough data to make it possible for people who are willing to donate for educational causes, to channel 10% of their donation to educational projects in the third world. The general idea being, instead of 1000 dollars for a student in the United States, you could donate 900 dollars to a student in the US and the remaining 100 dollars to support 2 students in East Africa, for example. This is not to suggest how to donate, but rather to make it easy for people to have enough data to allow them to decide whether to ‘diversify’ their ‘recipient portfolio’, if that makes sense.Having been involved in a few educational programs overseas, it is always amazing to see what resource-constrained students are able to do with just that little extra push, and it is often the small things, like a class laptop with 4 spare batteries, or mobile data packages to enable open source software downloads.The more you think about it, the more you realize it is a technology play, and it is getting easier to build the tools to make this happen.

  7. awaldstein

    Just great stuff.Big congrats on making this so Fred!

  8. Sean Myers

    This is fantastic Fred. Congratulations. I would love to see my town of Buffalo, NY embrace a similar project.

  9. kbb

    This could have huge systemic, multi-generational and community impact. Pulling this off had to have taken a huge amount of effort from a wide group of constituents. I would be honored to contribute to something so effective. Thank you for sharing this work with us.

  10. Joah Spearman

    This sounds like a great program that I wish had extensions throughout the country. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Vasudev Ram

    Good initiative, Fred.Apropos of computer education:For some time now I’ve been teaching programming topics, such as Python and SQL, to younger people, in addition to my courses for grown-ups / professionals.As part of this, I’ve been thinking some about ways to make the learning more interesting and effective for them. One way I’ve been using is to teach some computer graphics, and use their excitement at being able to create drawings with shapes, etc. (through code), to help motivate the students to learn the features of a programming language – Python, in this case.A simple example:Me: Okay, you wrote 4 commands in Python that drew a square on the screen. Cool.Me: How about if you want to draw multiple squares, with different sizes? One way is to type those 4 commands over and over again, with different values for the size of the square. That could get tedious fast. Lets see a better way….[ Then I show them how to define a function that draws a square; the function can take the desired size as a parameter, and then they can call it any number of times with various arguments, to draw many squares … ]And other examples on the same lines, that motivate the use of language features …I’ve started using Python turtle graphics for this with some of my students, and coincidentally, wrote a post just yesterday that shows how to create a simple interactive drawing program in Python using turtle graphics:

    1. Vasudev Ram

      Here is the turtle from the post 🙂 :

      1. Vasudev Ram

        Weird: Image didn’t get included, and now unable to edit / delete the comment. New Disqus bug?

  12. Lawrence Brass

    I hope many people see what you and your collaborators are doing, and do the same for their communities. When I hear people proclaiming that they will “change the world”, this is the type of change that makes me happiest to imagine.Congratulations.

  13. jason wright

    when might USV be making its first investment in a company one of these kids starts? two years from now?

  14. Semil Shah

    Thank you for using your time to advance these efforts. What I like about this model is bringing this into the pre-college stage. Too many people just assume “CS” is something you do in college.

  15. Mike Zamansky

    Terrific milestone.And a really important list of services for the kids.Would that we lived in a time where fundraising wasn’t necessary and these types of services were available to all public school kids.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Much better, still, careers in nursing, pharmacy, and more. People rushing into computing need to know that as a career field, it just sucks.

  16. sigmaalgebra

    That 90% graduation rate is astounding. There’s got to be a good and amazing story somewhere behind that.So, in computing, four years in high school plus four more in college? At’s a lot’s o’ courses in computing.Qs:(1) Is there that much to be taught and learned?Well, basically, yes: So, can start with computer usage, move to routine command line usage, text editor usage, writing simple editor macros and command line scripts, the writing “Hello World” and simple programs in any of several languages.Object oriented programming — inheritance, polymorphism, information hiding, scope of names.Exceptional condition handling.Project and code documentation.Object oriented design.Integrated development environments (IDEs).Then in the languages can start with using APIs, e.g, TCP/IP, HTTP, HTTPS, REST, SQL, more specific APIs of selected products.Encryption. Public keys and public key infrastructure. Authentication. Internet certificate authorities.Security via capabilities, authentication, and attribute control lists (ACLs). Kerberos.Can move on to classic algorithms and data structures — e.g., sorting, searching, lists, trees, heap sort, AVL trees, B-trees, computational time complexity and big-O notation.Then storage management, threading, concurrency, locking, e.g., mutex, Dijkstra semaphores.Memory management.Then some on Web design — HTML, CSS, session state, cookies, security, page design, UI/UX considerations, server side software architecture, client side JavaScript, server side JavaScript, AJAX, HTML5.Then programming for mobile, iPhone, Android, Windows..NET overview.Get a hardware overview — speeds, capacities, costs, principles of operation. Caches, rings, threads, processes, virtual memory, containers, virtual machines.Can move into language processing — Backus-Naur form (BNF — basically a version of classic set theory in math), lexical scanning, parsing, e.g., LALR, e.g., DeRemer’s ideas, the symbol table, semantic processing, optimization, code generation, interpretation, compiler compilers, bootstrapping.Then, sure SQL, transactions, locking, joins, normal forms, clustered keys, foreign keys, the log file, recovery, backup, security, database administration, monitoring, management, performance, parallelism, and, then, database design, e.g., entity, attribute, relationship (EAR).Software testing and maintenance.Software project management.Algebra. Plane geometry. Trigonometry. More algebra. Calculus.Linear algebra through at least the polar decomposition. Gauss elimination. Numerical considerations.Probability — Trials, events, probabilities, random variables, distributions, independence, correlation, conditioning, classic limit theorems.Applications in algorithm performance analysis. The renewal theorem and the Poisson process and applications in server farm capacity planning.Statistics — histograms, cross-tabulation, estimation, confidence intervals, hypothesis tests, curve fitting, multivariate linear statistics. Classification and regression trees (CART) and more from Leo Breiman that is popular now.Optimization — convexity, theorems of the alternative, linear programming, Bland’s rule, the Klee-Minty example, the simplex algorithm, interior point algorithms, integer linear programming, linear programming on networks, matching, Cunningham, Bertsekas. Nonlinear programming — unconstrained, e.g., conjugate gradients, Newton iteration, quasi-Newton, constrained, e.g., Lagrange multipliers, Kuhn-Tucker conditions. Iterative approaches, e.g., local linear programming, Lagrangian relaxation. Application of linear programming duality theory to the von Neumann-Morgenstern saddle point theorem of two person game theory. Dynamic programming.Computational complexity and NP-completeness. The halting problem.(2) Who is going to teach that material?One way and another, it’s easy to argue for the importance of all the topics in (1) plus many more.A problem: It’s tough to find people who can do well teaching all that material in a way that is (A) attractive to the students, (B) meaningful to the employers, and (C) easy enough for the students to learn. Indeed, right away, is a shortage of good teaching materials, e.g., books, code examples, learning exercises.(3) What to teach and why?What material to teach? Serious question. Long term value? Short term value? For getting a job next week? For a good career over the next 10, …, 40 years? For routine work common in the industry or novel work intended to be highly valuable?A first problem: Employers tend strongly to recruit people who know just the topics the employers have some understanding of and need right away. That is, the employers have selected some tools and topics and, when hiring, really want people with a lot of recent experience in just those tools and topics. The recruiters the hiring managers use are much worse, know essentially nothing about computing and only how to look for buzz words. Indeed, much of the recruiting is from software to scan for buzz words.Actually, good knowledge of all or early all the topics in (1) is not even close to being employable at all.Only a tiny fraction of employers are well versed in the topics in (1). Instead, the employers tend to be a fickle lot, not well informed on what really should be important for a person’s career or even for the employer. Instead, the employers tend to want not career employees but just temporary help for a project. And the qualifications employers tend to want is the last 2-3 years of intensive experience with just the tools and products, e.g., Oracle PeopleSoft, iPhone programming, image processing with Python, they are struggling with just then.Now there is a theme in hiring: Take some of the current work, give it to a candidate, and have them do the work. If they do well on the work, then hire them, maybe just temporarily for just the project. Else, reject them. Such hiring managers regard any education and the topics in (1) as essentially irrelevant.A second problem: Strongly, there is no “there there”. That is, mostly there is no real career there. Evidence:(A) Such employers are unwilling to train a new employee even for a week.(B) What the employer wants might not be much of a foundation for a career anywhere else, and that employer might be gone in less than five years.(C) Going back at least to some US DoD screaming about a shortage of STEM labor and some NSF efforts to pay US universities to import and train in STEM fields students from Taiwan, India, etc., that career path is managed in a way that nearly guarantees that the employee can’t do well buying a house and providing for a family. Closely related is the H1-B visa program scam that is so important to such powerful players in the US economy that it is a major issue for several current Republican paid off puppet candidates for POTUS — Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Kasich, etc.(D) There is outrageous, determined, ingrained age discrimination in the whole field. Anyone over 35 need not apply.Such an environment is highly challenging for an employee who wants a career. They might be better off in, e.g., nursing, pharmacy, Diesel engine repair, or running any of a huge range of small businesses, e.g., even grass mowing — literally.How to do education and training for a career in computing is still more challenging, is a dilemma: Or the education side can collect the topics from the past that were useful in practice and seem fundamental with promise of being useful in practice in the future, but the employer side may be looking only for recent intensive experience in some highly improbable combination of recent, very narrow topics.E.g., a huge fraction of employers looking for labor are not doing very well financially, and their employees stand to do much less well financially.Indeed, on this dilemma, there is a now somewhat famous joke If Carpenters Were Hired Like Programmers, at…that starts:Interviewer: So, you’re a carpenter, are you?Carpenter: That’s right, that’s what I do.Interviewer: How long have you been doing it?Carpenter: Ten years.Interviewer: Great, that’s good. Now, I have a few technical questions to ask you to see if you’re a fit for our team. OK?Carpenter: Sure, that’d be fine.Interviewer: First of all, we’re working in a subdivision building a lot of brown houses. Have you built a lot of brown houses before?Carpenter: Well, I’m a carpenter, so I build houses, and people pretty much paint them the way they want.Interviewer: Yes, I understand that, but can you give me an idea of how much experience you have with brown? Roughly.Carpenter: Gosh, I really don’t know. Once they’re built I don’t care what color they get painted. Maybe six months?Interviewer: Six months? Well, we were looking for someone with a lot more brown experience, but let me ask you some more questions.Carpenter: Well, OK, but paint is paint, you know.Interviewer: Yes, well. What about walnut?Carpenter: What about it?Interviewer: Have you worked much with walnut?Carpenter: Sure, walnut, pine, oak, mahogony — you name it.Interviewer: But how many years of walnut do you have?Carpenter: Gosh, I really don’t know — was I supposed to be counting the walnut?Interviewer: Well, estimate for me.Carpenter: OK, I’d say I have a year and a half of walnut.Interviewer: Would you say you’re an entry level walnut guy or a walnut guru?Carpenter: A walnut guru? What’s a walnut guru? Sure, I’ve used walnut.That story goes on that way and is a riot except it is too close for comfort to the truth. To update the joke, the interviewer, who didn’t know which end of a hammer was what and never heard of a nail gun, might have asked the candidate if he was a full stack carpenter or a walnut ninja.(4) A secret of educationIn the US, that all citizens should have at least a high school diploma is well accepted and established. Important reasons:(A) The 3Rs so that people can continue to learn and be informed and, thus, good employees, parents, and citizens.(B) Learn how to learn and work with high quality.For college, the old goal was to train ministers, teachers, and lawyers. More recently, to train medical doctors and engineers. More recently, to train STEM labor for the technology important for US national security and lower salaries. More recently, to lower the salaries of the labor in Silicon Valley.For college teaching, that is poorly regarded — one such position does not provide income enough to support a family.Indeed, only a tiny fraction of college professors of computer science could do well getting hired in an entry level job in the computer industry. Or, such professors of computer science teach students how to avoid the pitfalls of a career in computing that they avoided by becoming profs of computer science.For high end academics, no one cares what you know. Instead, first, they care what you can create, that is, what good, new research you can do. Better still is to have a good publication record of such research — the evaluation is mostly based just on counting published papers but not on reading them. Still better, recognition via speaking invitations and awards — those are easy to count. Better still, research grants — best of all, money, and by far the easiest to count.Right, in the end the best is to bring in money — i.e., commonly the university takes 60% of the money for overhead, e.g., supporting the president’s chauffeured limo, the fancy new stonework on campus, the all glass walled lunch room, the string quartet series, the academic publishing house, the carpet and drapery budget, and, of course, the English department.So, essentially none of higher education is aimed at what computer industry employer recruiters are looking for, e.g., buzz words. E.g., IIRC, recently an industry CEO complained that Yale does not teach even one course in Android programming. Likely no prof in the Yale computer science department has ever written even a single line of code for Android.(5) Computing Career StrategyThere is the famous, “The business of America is business.”, and this is not completely wrong.For each job in the computer industry, someone higher up created that job and has obtained at least some money for paying for it.Net, far and away, the person to be is the one who creates that job, not the person who fills it.Still better: What is readily available in computing now is just astounding and does look, walk, talk, smell like an historic business opportunity: So, the hardware has gotten faster, with higher capacities, smaller, more reliable, and much less expensive, and this progress is continuing, e.g., to the solid state non-volatile storage and its exploitation and to much faster Internet data rates.The readily available infrastructure software, for free or nearly so, is astounding — operating systems, software development tools, software libraries, often open-source, etc.The Internet has reached likely over 80% of the population of the planet, and mobile devices with good Web browsers, quite capable, universal user interface client software, are cheap and well on the way to being in the hands of nearly everyone able to see and hold such a device.Via the cloud, server side infrastructure and on-demand capacity is astounding and growing quickly, with prices falling rapidly.So, those are some of the raw materials. Now what to do with them:(A) One of the important themes is the fact that nothing interests people as much as other people. So, we have social applications.(B) For another big theme, just now there is great value in replacing expensive labor with cheap automation, and the computing available is charging forward with that.(C) Another big theme is that now and likely over the horizon what is the most valuable is really good information. So, there are huge opportunities in providing better information. To do this, take data, manipulate it, and report the information.IMHO, for real value for both the students and the economy, education and careers in computing should be aimed at (A)-(C) but are not.What are important for (A)-(C) are (i) basics of how business works, (ii) the basics of computing, enough to have most of the background to pick up more as needed, and (iii) some pure and applied math, including some abilities in research for new results that will be powerful and valuable for some specific problem.Somehow I suspect that the high pressure to teach computing in high school is aimed more at training in working hard and learning, confidence building, and socialization than specific, practical career preparation.But students need to be warned before they pay “full tuition” (@JLM) to learn the hard way: The business of America is business, and a career should seek to create a business, say, intended to do well enough and last long enough to do well supporting a family, and not just a job.Then, in real business 101, one of the most valuable advantages is a geographical barrier to entry — e.g., pizza shop, grass mowing service, kitchen/bath remodeling shop, big truck/little truck business, manufacturers representative, auto body shop, auto repair shop, dentist, pediatrician, independent insurance agency, rental property owner/manager, etc. — that is not in competition with anyone more than 100 miles away, certainly not in competition with anyone in China, Japan, India, Mexico, etc., and, if does well in a radius of 100 miles, can do well.It’s important to have many customers, even if each is a small customer, and not just a few, even if each is large. Any single customer can leave at any time for any reason or no reason; with a few large customers, one customer that leaves can be a disaster; with many customers, have enormous protection from the average.It’s important to be serving the broad economy, which is nearly guaranteed to keep going, even in a depression, and not just some niche part of the economy that might go away next month.To do well on the open internet, e.g., Google, Facebook, Twitter, need to do well against international competition and for that need some strong barriers to entry. Of course, as usual, a well-known, trusted, accepted, strong brand is important. One of the best barriers is a network effect. Another is, for the users/customers, some high switching costs. For a tiny fraction of entrepreneurs, another good barrier can be some especially powerful, difficult to duplicate or equal, technology secret sauce.

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  18. johndodds

    Actions speak louder than words. A great initiative and a great achievement by all involved, not least Tylor and his classmates,