Stories and photo by Caltech

By the time they get to middle and high school, children interested in science and math often begin to doubt whether they can succeed in STEM careers, according to U.S. data. If their grades begin to falter, some students turn away from these subjects. Instead, in Pasadena, hundreds of students have turned to the Rise tutoring program. Led by the Caltech Y since 2006, Rise offers these students a path toward success in STEM.

Four evenings each week, students from Caltech and Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) fill the large multipurpose room above Caltech’s Red Door Marketplace. The tutors from Caltech talk and laugh with the local public-school students in pairs, poring over school homework assignments.

Rise basics

One-to-one tutoring in person or online is the core of Rise. In the 2022-23 school year, 84 public school students in grades 8–12 visited Caltech’s campus twice each week for 90 minutes of tutoring, while another 47 signed in online.

Opening to families in October, this one-to-one tutoring program typically fills up in a few weeks. Families pay $200 per academic year to support the program’s administration, with scholarships available.

Although Rise tutoring is designed for students who have either declining grades or a C or lower in math or science, it also requires motivation. Participants must have a teacher’s recommendation and a grade point average of 2.0 or higher.

In recent years, Rise has expanded to more locations and formats:

  • John Muir High School: After school, high school students visit a classroom on their own campus for drop-in Rise tutoring and advice from the local college-prep nonprofit College Access Plan.
  • Pasadena City College: Tutors help past Rise participants and other STEM students succeed in their first years at PCC and other colleges.
  • Flintridge Center: Caltech students tutor participants in the Flintridge Center’s Youth of Promise program.
  • Union Station: Children who are transitioning out of homelessness with the help of Union Station Homeless Services participate in tutoring.
  • STEAM Summer Experience: In 2023, Rise debuted this three-week day camp for local students in grades 3–6, an opportunity made possible by support from the Medtronic Foundation and collaborations with STEAM:Coders and STEMulate Learning.

Learning to teach

Before they start volunteering, Rise tutors learn teaching techniques to help students struggling with math and science have positive experiences with the subjects. Rise leaders also train tutors on Caltech’s guidelines for working with youth and on state-mandated reporting requirements.

“In orientation training, we share best practices, what we’ve learned over the years through the RISE program,” explains Courtney Reddix, student programs coordinator for the Caltech Y. “Older tutors speak to the new tutors about different kinds of things, like ways to make your session successful, to build confidence, talking to your student not as an authoritarian, but finding things in common. Just talking to them as a human first and foremost before jumping into the math and science.”

Working in pairs, tutors and students first get to know each other before identifying the students’ academic strengths and where they are having trouble, and then setting achievable goals and a plan. In each session, pairs focus on relevant homework assignments or on challenges designed by tutors to help students gain skill and confidence.

“Tutors work with the same one or two students each time they come, so they get to see their progress and their growth. That makes it really rewarding for the tutors as well. I think that’s why they keep coming back. Some tutors have worked with the same student for four and five years. With that kind of long-term relationship, you’re really impacting somebody’s life.”

A priority for Caltech students

In 2022–2023 alone, 171 Caltech students served as Rise tutors, split about evenly between undergraduates and graduate students. More than 80 percent served on a volunteer basis. Those who have been paid through the Federal Work-Study Program often continue as volunteers after their funding ends.

This high participation in Rise and other outreach programs shows that Caltech students value the opportunity to mentor others and connect with the local community, says Liz Jackman, associate director of student programs for the Caltech Y.

Rise is made possible by the volunteerism of Caltech students, the commitment of PUSD students, and the financial support of the Caltech Y Tom M. Apostol Fund for Science and Math Outreach, the Roethke Family Funds, the Medtronic Foundation, the Pasadena African American Parent Council, the Harris-Bacor Family Foundation, and the Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union.


Story and Photos by Pasadena Tournament of Roses Foundation

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Foundation is proud to announce its 2023 grant awards, totaling more than $240,000, to 24 organizations in the San Gabriel Valley. These grants will support new and ongoing programs benefiting children, teens, adults and seniors.

The Foundation’s 2022 Golf Classic presented by J.P. Morgan Private Bank was a success, raising more than $40,000. As a result, five more organizations received grant support.

In 1983, the Foundation was created to receive and manage contributions from the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, its members, donors, friends of the Foundation, sponsors and public supporters. The Association and the Tournament of Roses Foundation are focused on positively impacting the Pasadena community with charitable giving, volunteerism and community involvement.

tournament of roses grant

Since its inception, the Foundation has funded more than $5.5 million in charitable contributions on behalf of the Tournament of Roses Association, with a goal of investing in people through sustainable programs. This year, one $35,000 grant and one $15,000 grant were awarded, in addition to 22 other community initiatives that received grants of up to $10,000.

  • $35,000 grant – STEAM:CODERS inspires underrepresented and underserved students and their families by providing science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) education, preparing them for academic and career opportunities. To reach a greater number of underserved students throughout the greater Pasadena area, STEAM:CODERS will expand their STEAM classes, camps, and the MathPods program. These initiatives will be available year-round during the school day, after-school, weekends, school breaks and during summer camps.
  • $15,000 grant – The Pasadena High School Alumni Association (PHSAA) aims to foster connections among Pasadena High School alumni, current students, faculty, staff and administrators. Their objectives include fundraising to support the school, offering scholarships, engaging in community service and promoting school spirit. With this grant, PHSAA will enhance an area in the Harriet Hammond Library and Media Center, making it more user-friendly for classes, study space, reading nooks, tutoring and other educational activities.

The categories for the Foundation grants are Visual and Performing Arts, Sports and Recreation, and Education (Early Childhood Learning, STEAM/STEM, Literacy.) Broad categories allow the Foundation to contribute to our local communities’ civic, cultural and educational advancement.


By Maya Pottiger, Word In Black

STEAM:CODERS is on a mission to introduce one million students to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

After majoring in communications, a Tulane student wanted to switch majors in her junior year to computer science.

Advisors doubted her because she didn’t have the prerequisite classes, saying she was “way behind.” They offered self-study assignments to catch up and see if it would be a good fit.

When she looked at the assignments, she told advisors she already knew this stuff. During high school, she’d done a program called STEAM:CODERS, which taught her coding languages.

“They were able to share with the students their experience, having sat in those chairs learning coding and robotics, and now being able to use those skills in college as freshmen.”

Now she has a computer science degree and a job at Accenture.

“That was really a big moment for her to be able to fall back on what she learned in high school and use that in college to be able to get her degree,” says Raymond Ealy, executive director and founder of STEAM:CODERS.

It’s success stories like these Ealy likes to share with campers every summer to give them something to relate to. And, now that former campers have returned to instruct programs, STEAM:CODERS has come full circle.

“They were able to share with the students their experience, having sat in those chairs learning coding and robotics, and now being able to use those skills in college as freshmen,” Ealy says. “It’s working. Living Proof.”

SteamCoders camp


STEAM:CODERS, based in Pasadena, California, serves underrepresented and underserved K-12 students. About 40% of attendees are Hispanic, and 25% are Black.

About 500 kids go through the programs every summer — more than 60,000 since it started in 2014 — in class sizes of about 15 to 20. They try to keep the classes small to give each student the attention they need. This is important because most of the students come from Title I schools where they’re in a class of more than 30 people, Ealy says.

“If you struggle and raise your hand, there really is nobody to come by and help you because the teacher has to keep the class moving,” Ealy says. “We try to make sure that, if you do raise your hand, if you get stuck, we have somebody in the room who could sit with you until you catch up.”

“We try to make sure that, if you do raise your hand, if you get stuck, we have somebody in the room who could sit with you until you catch up.”

The elementary school-aged kids do beginning lessons like Scratch, a basic coding language that helps them get familiar with the look and feel of coding languages. Once in middle school, the skill level increases, with students learning languages like Python and JavaScript, along with the more creative offerings of game design, video editing, and robotics. And high school-aged students build on these skills through web design, data science and analytics, and even cybersecurity.

“For those who want to move on and take computer science and AP classes, we try to really push the envelope for them so that they’re ready,” Ealy says.

In 2022, Black students were severely underrepresented in the overall students who took Biology, Calculus AB, and Statistics AP tests. While white students made up an average of 74% who took these exams, and Hispanic students made up an average of 20%, Black students made up about 7% of students.

And the rate drops even lower when looking at those who scored at least a 3 on the exam, which is the lowest score colleges accept as transfer credits. White students made up 81% of those who scored at least a 3 on the exam, Hispanic students made up 14%, and Black students accounted for only 4%.

To help keep students on track, each class is broken into three groups: Kids who are moving a little quicker, students who are “going in lockstep” with the teacher, and the group that’s struggling.

“Having three [instructors] in a classroom allows us to address all three groups,” Ealy says. “We don’t know who they are initially, but after we figure it out, they have a designated person, and they don’t have to worry about how fast or how slow the rest of the class is moving.”

Aside from learning the skills, there’s an exciting aspect to the camp: Field trips to places like Nickelodeon and Warner Bros. to see the professions in action.

They talk to animators and other production professionals on shows like Spongebob and Rugrats, where they know the characters but not how the shows are put together. It teaches them what kinds of jobs exist in the industry and makes them more relatable.

“We take them places they’ve never thought about, and they get to talk to people in roles they know nothing about,” Ealy says. “It’s a real highlight for the kids. They didn’t know there were that many jobs involved.”

Opening Their Eyes

In the communities STEAM:CODERS serve, many people don’t look to the tech field as an opportunity, Ealy says.

“Primarily, it’s because their families are not in those fields. Their families may be working lower-skilled or unskilled jobs and didn’t go to college,” Ealy says.

In the beginning, STEAM:CODERS bounced around to different locations with computer labs, like community centers. But then it fostered relationships with local universities that had unused labs. And this benefit was two-fold.

“It gets those kids on a college campus for the first time,” Ealy says. “They can look around and see what it’s like, so we plant that college seed early.”

After the college exposure, Ealy wanted to ensure students were exposed to the tech job market and what opportunities were available to them.

In 2021, about a quarter of the United States’ workforce was employed in STEM occupations, but Black people only accounted for 9%, compared to 10% of Asian workers and 15% of Hispanic workers, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

“We’re trying to make sure everybody knows that those jobs are out there and have some training, some fundamentals so that they can take advantage of those opportunities,” Ealy says. “It just makes the country stronger when we have a larger talent pool, and that talent pool is getting opportunities.”


Story & Photos By Pasadena Tournament of Roses
Originally published on Pasadena Now

Middle and high school students introduced to STEM concepts used to create a Rose Parade float

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses has partnered with Cal Poly Rose Float on an engaging and educational program, RoseSTEM presented by SoCalGas.

Held June 13-15, the program included field trips to the Cal Poly Rose Float facility where middle and high school students were introduced students to STEM concepts used to create a Rose Parade presented by Honda float, including hands-on experience.

Cal Poly Rose Float, a group of college students, shared their expertise in float construction, design and decoration. Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have continuously participated in the parade since 1949 and their floats have led in introducing technology to the parade, including the first use of hydraulics for animation in 1968 and the first use of computer-controlled animation in 1978.

“Partnering with the Tournament of Roses, allow our club to engage young students to understand how STEAM is used daily in designing, planning, and building our float each year. Cal Poly Universities Rose Float is a 76-year-old tradition that exemplifies the ‘Learn by Doing’ philosophy and emphasizes our student’s Career Readiness initiatives that prepare them to enter the workforce ready to work on day one,” shared Cary Khatab, Director of Cal Poly Rose Float.

During the sessions, Cal Poly Rose Float and representatives from SoCalGas brought their knowledge to the program.

“It’s exciting to see students in the RoseSTEM Program put learning into practice by designing and creating a Rose Parade float, we couldn’t be more proud to support their efforts,” said Trisha Muse, Director of Community Relations at SoCalGas. “We’re going to need these bright students’ creativity, ingenuity and hard work to tackle the challenges and create solutions toward a cleaner future.”

Over 150 students from the greater Pasadena area participated thanks to the support of community partners; Adelante Youth Alliance, STEAM:CODERS, Day One, and Stars.

SteamCoders and Tournament of Roses

“STEAM:CODERS is extremely excited to have joined forces with the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, SoCalGas and Cal Poly Pomona [Rose Float Club], offering students an opportunity to learn about the engineering behind a parade float. Forty middle and high school students from the Pasadena area participated in this RoseSTEM event.”

“The RoseSTEM program provides our students with a safe space to explore their curiosities while learning how STEM concepts are actualized in real-world situations. This program aligns with our mission to inspire and educate youth with the examples of ingenuity, collaboration, and leadership shared by the diverse students of the Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float Lab,” Melissa Estrada, Executive Director of Adelante Youth Alliance said. “The RoseSTEM program promotes a college-going culture and increases interest in pursuing STEM. Bringing students together for this experience builds a sense of community with encouragement to design, construct and decorate their futures with passion!”

Raymond Ealy, Founder/Executive Director of STEAM:CODERS, added “STEAM:CODERS is extremely excited to have joined forces with the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, SoCalGas and Cal Poly Pomona [Rose Float Club], offering students an opportunity to learn about the engineering behind a parade float. Forty middle and high school students from the Pasadena area participated in this RoseSTEM event. Students were introduced to STEM concepts used to create a Rose Parade float. We are very fortunate to have outstanding partners.”

Christy Zamani, Executive Director of Day One shared, “The most pressing challenges in our world- from climate change to health require problem-solving skills rooted in STEM. Opportunities like the Rose STEM program allow youth to see beyond the initial fear of what it takes to be good at Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Their openness to entering STEM careers is crucial to our future existence.”

The Tournament of Roses is a long-standing supporter of regional and national education initiatives through partnerships with local school districts, statewide institutions, universities, and corporate sponsors. By supporting students and teachers, they provide needed resources and valuable opportunities for educational growth.


Article and Photos courtesy of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy expresses special thanks to STEAM:CODERS, a local community group that serves underrepresented and underserved youth in pursuing opportunities in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). They recently concluded a week-long workshop that brought middle schoolers to the FSHA campus. Here are some photos of the students presenting their projects to friends and family here on the Hill! Way to go! “Inspire whole hearts and minds to speak truth.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart is an all-girls, Catholic, Dominican day and boarding school located in La Cañada Flintridge, a suburb of Los Angeles. We are committed to preparing young women for a future rooted in faith, integrity and truth.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 440 Saint Katherine Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, (626) 685-8300 or visit www.fsha.org.

STEAM:CODERS and Sacred Heart Academy 2
STEAM:CODERS and Sacred Heart Academy

By Outlook Newspapers

Coldwell Banker Realty in Pasadena recently held its happy hour fundraiser at Gaucho Grill.

Lori Ramirez, who is manager of Coldwell Banker’s Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge offices as well as a chairperson for Southern California, explained the organization’s philosophy of “giving back” to the community. She also told attendees about the local office’s commitment to support this goal by hosting small, monthly fundraising events for local charities.

CB Cares Foundation, the charity branch of this national realty group, also contributes to each branch’s chosen charitable organization. This month, the Pasadena office raised funds for STEAM:CODERS, a Pasadena-based group which focuses on “the needs of disadvantaged K-12 students throughout Los Angeles County who are interested in developing STEAM-related skills, but who have limited or no access to key resources, equipment, instruction and the internet.”

STEAM:CODERS Executive Director Raymond Ealy expressed his organization’s desire to “restore the dream.” The funds raised at the event will go toward student field trips, interns working with the program and underserved youth who need internet service.

STEAM:CODERS Caltech 2023

By Pasadena Community Foundation

The focus in the classroom is evident as elementary-age students at Washington Elementary STEM Magnet control images on a video screen using coding. These kids are lucky participants of STEAM:CODERS, a Pasadena nonprofit that inspires underrepresented students and their families through Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) – all in preparation for academic and career opportunities.

STEAM:CODERS was one of PCF’s Racial Equity Grantees in 2021 in support of its important work bridging the digital divide for local students. PCF visited a summer-session STEAM:CODERS classroom in late June and were lucky to meet Iria Taylor and McKenzie Street, two college-age program instructors who were once STEAM:CODERS participants themselves. The young women shared with us the difference STEAM:CODERS and STEAM-based education has made in their educational journeys.

McKenzie Street & Iria Taylor, STEAM:CODERS instructors who credit the organization with inspiring their own love of technology.

“Take That Step Forward and Try It”

Iria Taylor graduated from Pasadena High School and is now a nursing major at Howard University. Urged by her dad, who is a security tech manager, Iria joined STEAM:CODERS as a 5th grader just as the organization was starting in 2015. “My dad wanted to give us that experience and to learn more about computers and technology. Even though my sister and I were really the only girls in the classroom, we had so much fun playing games and putting in the coding blocks to see the little character move on the screen based on what I told it to do.”

In high school, Iria was an Honors and AP student in the Creative Arts, Media, and Design (CAMAD) pathway and used her computer skills to become adept in Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat, and other creative programs. She sees STEAM:CODERS as her first important introduction to computers and now relishes serving as female role model in the classroom, showing younger students – especially the girls – that “women can thrive in this field and to take that step forward and try it.”

“I Loved Learning the Science Behind Computers”

McKenzie Street – a recent graduate of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and bound for NYU in the fall – was a STEAM:CODERS participant from 6th to 9th grade, an experience that she recognizes as kindling her lasting love of computer science. “The program definitely had an impact on my education because it taught me to try new things that are out of my comfort zone, and it also encouraged me to take the computer track in high school. I loved learning the science behind computers.”

McKenzie went on to volunteer with STEAM:CODERS as a high school student, and this summer, like Iria, she is a paid classroom instructor. She is happy to be helping the next generation of computer-minded students, noting that “technology is part of everything we do now, and it’s so integrated into education. Computer science classes are also a great way to learn logic, computational, and math skills and can help kids excel in other subjects in school.” McKenzie plans to major in media/communications at NYU and hopes she can leverage her degree with a tech-related company.


By Outlook Newspapers, May 17, 2022

Each May since 1985, the Science Olympiad National Tournament has brought students, parents, teachers and volunteers to a college campus to compete in one of the largest and most prestigious Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competitions in the United States.

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is preventing qualifying teams from traveling to Caltech for the big event this year, Science Olympiad is honoring the city that would have hosted more than 5,000 of the best and brightest in the nation.

STEAM:CODERS Partnering with Caltech

“When the global pandemic began, our Science Olympiad teams stepped up to exhibit character and citizenship in the community, which we call the 3C’s,” said Jenny Kopach, CEO of Science Olympiad. “From organizing food drives to 3D printing face shields for medical workers to tutoring underserved kids, this overwhelming display of thoughtfulness reinforced one of our values: It’s Good to Be Smart, and Smart to be Good.”

To shine a light on the power of charitable giving and service, Science Olympiad is partnering with its 38th annual National Tournament host, Caltech, to address STEM opportunity gaps in the region. Students, parents, teachers and volunteers will be invited to donate to STEAM:CODERS, a nonprofit that teaches logic, critical thinking and problem solving. It also includes Arts in its name.

“STEAM:CODERS is excited about collaborating with Science Olympiad and Caltech, in support of the 2022 Science Olympiad National Tournament,” said STEAM:CODERS Executive Director and Founder Raymond Ealy. “We share the same mission, creating access and opportunity for young people. Together, we are going to make a difference in the lives of students who reside in the greater Los Angeles community. Our motto is: Opportunity + Imagination = Innovation.”

“Inspiring underrepresented and underserved students through STEM continues to be a need in our society today. We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Caltech to support STEAM:CODERS in this effort so that our society can be more diverse, robust and resilient.”

For every $10 received, STEAM:CODERS will be able to provide one hour of math tutoring; $25 covers field trip transportation; $50 pays for a five-week computer science class. Higher donations provide access to science and robotics summer camps.
Many coding volunteers come from the Caltech Y service program, such as Albert Kyi, a Caltech student and co-director of the National Tournament, who said, “We are so proud to have STEAM:CODERS as our Smart to be Good partner and are united in our goal of bringing STEM to students from all walks of life. We hope this partnership allows us to take steps toward making STEM education more equitable and accessible.”

National Tournament co-director and Caltech alum Peter Hung added, “Inspiring underrepresented and underserved students through STEM continues to be a need in our society today. We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Caltech to support STEAM:CODERS in this effort so that our society can be more diverse, robust and resilient.”


By Outlook Newspapers

STEAM:Coders founder Raymond Ealy was recognized by Assemblymember Chris Holden and the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) as a 41st Assembly District Unsung Hero for his positive impact in the community.

“An ‘Unsung Hero’ is defined as a person who makes a substantive yet unrecognized contribution — a person whose bravery is unknown or unacknowledged,” according to a press release from Holden’s office. The California Legislative Black Caucus established the Black History Month Unsung Hero Award to recognize individuals who have contributed selflessly to their respective districts.

STEAM:CODERS Founder Raymond Ealy Honored

STEAM:Coders Founder Ray Ealy being presented the 41st Assembly District Unsung Hero Award by Assemblymember Chris Holden.

“Ray is an example of leadership by putting the work in today, for generations to come,” Holden said. “Through his dedication to empowering youth, he has worked with over 50,000 students — giving them toolkits for success and self-confidence to enter and excel in their careers. I commend him and STEAM:Coders.”

Ealy is the executive director and founder of STEAM:Coders, a nonprofit that inspires underserved and underrepresented students and their families through science, technology, engineering, art and math, in preparation for academic and career opportunities. He has more than 28 years of management experience in the nonprofit, financial services and retail sectors with Bank of America, Countrywide Financial Services, Security Pacific Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.

“At STEAM:Coders, our goal is to provide underserved and underrepresented K-12 students with the resources that they need to be competitive,” Ealy said. “We tell students that their competition is not the student next to them in class, but students from across the country and around the world. This is why we want to equip them with the essential tools for future academic and career success — logic, critical thinking and problem-solving.”


By S.C. Stuart,  PC Magazine

Warner Bros. Studios recently hosted 30 middle school girls from STEAM:CODERS, a nonprofit that works with schools and communities in low-income areas. We tagged along for a day of workshops on machine learning, robotics, game engines, and one big surprise.

At Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, technicians and staff volunteers did last-minute checks on VR demo stations and the snack situation before buses carrying 30 middle school girls from three, Pasadena-area schools rolled onto the lot.

Some teens instantly pounced on the technology setups, grabbing an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, eager to try new stuff. Others gazed out from the large picture windows overlooking the vast studio backlot. They knew Warner Bros. was famous for the eight Harry Potter movies, Wonder Woman and—as they could see from the giant black-clad statue in the lobby—The Dark Knight. But despite living less than 15 miles away, very few of them had ever been to this part of town, let alone inside a Hollywood studio.

The all-day event was organized by STEAM:CODERS, a nonprofit that works with schools and communities at or below the poverty line. All events are free to attend and include hot lunch/snacks, transportation, and a STEAM:CODERS T-shirt. Warner Bros. is a corporate sponsor, and opens its doors a few times a year to different STEAM:CODERS groups; some are co-ed while others are just for girls.

Warner Bros. CTO Vicky Colf sits on the STEAM:CODERS board. “When I was 7, my father—who was in the US Air Force—brought home a huge computer from Texas Instruments, and taught me how to program in a proprietary form of BASIC,” she told me. “It took me a long time to realize that the experience I had growing up was unique; that it made me unafraid of technology, and so I felt both empowered, and completely comfortable, to choose tech as a career.”

Warner Bros. CTO Vicky ColfColf has been with the studio for 13 years and her team won an Emmy for their development of the entertainment industry’s first digital supply chain product, known as Digital End-to-End (DETE). Promoted to CTO in 2017, she’s now responsible for technology strategy, R&D, and providing critical business and technology intelligence and services to all business units.

The STEAM:CODERS girls got a studio tour—lounging on the famous Central Perk sofa on the Friends set, viewing storyboards from The Matrix, and riding Harry Potter broomsticks in front of green screens for the camera. But they also participated in tech workshops on machine learning, robotics, game engines, data science, and more.

“Warner Bros. has the largest content library in the world,” explained Colf. “And through this lens, we can inspire these girls into getting excited about a very wide mix of possible futures in technology.

“If she’s an introvert who prefers to sit and work quietly alone, we can tell her about careers here in cybersecurity, keeping our entertainment assets and networks safe,” Colf continued. “If she’s a real extrovert, we can show her scrum teams that work together on apps. We have a very wide range of people working on technology solutions, most of which they’ve probably never heard, or dreamed of, before coming here today.”

“Many of these kids don’t have a computer at home, and many don’t even have cable or internet access. Yet they need to have digital literacy and access just to survive in the future.”

Learning What’s Behind the Magic

As the girls split off into three different workshop groups, I sat down with Raymond Ealy, Executive Director and Founder STEAM:CODERS. He started the group in 2014 to give those from underserved communities “a bigger horizon on life,” he told me. They’ve now had over 5,000 kids come through the program.

“Many of these kids don’t have a computer at home, and many don’t even have cable or internet access. Yet they need to have digital literacy and access just to survive in the future,” said Ealy.

“Plus, these kids don’t know any scientists, mathematicians, or software engineers within their communities. By bringing them here, they get to meet people—who might look like them—doing these jobs. It all creates an opportunity in their fertile minds. They need to know what’s behind the ‘magic.’ We focus on teaching students logic, critical thinking, and problem solving.”

Ealy has 25 years of management experience in the nonprofit, financial services, and retail sectors, from Bank of America to Countrywide Financial Services. He knows how to manage and motivate a team (it was impressive watching him corral a room full of excited teenagers) and bring in heavy-hitter corporate sponsors like Warner Bros., as well as City National Bank, Union Bank, US Bank, Jacobs Engineering, and Idealab, among many others.

For Ealy, STEAM:CODERS is about fundamentally re-engineering society.

“Young people have been groomed to be perpetual consumers,” Ealy pointed out. “But we want to show them how things are created and how they can become part of that story by meeting and learning from people, as they’ll do today, here at Warner Bros., who actually make technology and entertainment.”

Harry Potter and Robots

In a nearby conference room, girls were learning how to parse incoming box office data feeds to ascertain the real-time value of a Warner Bros. entertainment property. In another space, Warner Bros. staffers walked them through how to program AR holograms with MERGE Cube.

By manipulating Cozmo bots, the teens grasped the principles of human-robot interaction, before engaging in machine-learning tasks on laptops running Google’s Teachable Machine platform. Then they all met with game designers and project management staff, who let them loose on pre-released console titles.

I can’t say whether they got to see a sneak preview of the forthcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, but let’s just say there were a few wands on the table.

At each workshop, it was noticeable that Warner Bros. staffers were asking the STEAM:CODERS questions and vice versa. It wasn’t just a one-way tutelage. This is deliberate, according to Colf; she wants her team to listen for new perspectives and learn from a generation that has never known a world with the internet.

“We’re fascinated to see what they’re most engaged with, how quickly they pick stuff up, what they want to see, and what is considered entertainment to them,” said Colf. “The questions they ask are incredibly telling to us, because they illustrate how they see the world.”

It’s also likely that many of these STEAM:CODERS will not necessarily want corporate jobs in the future, but may well become entrepreneurs within the technology and entertainment fields. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is a roll-up of several indie game publishers and, as AR becomes a new standard, studio chiefs know that good ideas often emerge from outside incubation.

After the workshops wrapped, the girls got into an orderly line and enjoyed Tex-Mex food in a boardroom with views of the surrounding Hollywood Hills.

Eventually, sugar levels started to plummet and, exhausted by the day’s events, the teens filed back into the WB Technology building for a debrief. There, they were all handed backpacks, which they discovered—amid many an excited gasp—each contained a laptop.