This Current Day Hidden Figure Turns Up STEAM

STEAMImage: My Girl Power, Vimeo (Image: My Girl Power, Vimeo)


Loretta Cheeks is a modern day “hidden figure.” The Hidden Figures movie educated the public about brilliant, yet not well-known, black women in STEM from the past. Cheeks is one of today’s African American STEM professionals who may not be household names in the black community but have achieved remarkable success in their careers; contributed greatly to the science, technology, and engineering fields; and routinely give back.

The Ph.D. candidate developed systems and headed up teams within the communications, radio, avionics, instrumentation and control, and chemical industries. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cheeks’ career spans two decades where she held key technical and engineering roles with several prestigious companies including Westinghouse and Honeywell Aerospace.


A Weekend of STEAM


In addition to her technical work, she founded Strong TIES to promote STEAM (science, technology, arts, mathematics) K-12 education.

Strong TIES will hold an upcoming event in Phoenix on the weekend of Feb. 17-19, called Turn Up for STEAM.

The event is free and will be held at Phoenix College. It will serve approximately 120 underrepresented and underserved (50% African American, 47% Hispanic, and 3% other) kids, ages 13-18 who fall behind in science and math achievement.

Event activities include “Hip-Hop and Music the Bridge to Understand Algebra” and a “mini Code Hackathon.” Hip-hop and music will be leveraged to introduce the students to coding using visual arts and music software platforms.

Students will have access to college financial aid and college readiness workshops. On Sunday, there will be a panel discussion, “Turn Up for STEAM Presentation and Demonstration: A Celebration of Hidden Figures in Honor of Black History Month.” The panel is open to all in the community.


On Often Being “An Only”


“As a research scholar and industry professional in computer science, unfortunately, I am often the ‘only one’ in the department (both corporate and academics),” says Cheeks in a statement via email.

“What I have found out over the 20-plus years while working in a STEM career, [is that] it isn’t intellect that is lacking for many who have an interest in STEM or tech, rather it is a lack of access to critical resources that enables an equal playing field. For instance, when I ask students (and adults) why are math and science important? Often the response is math (and science) is hard. However, if I were to show students through experiential learning or play how math is used as a tool for expressing relationships, they will totally get it.”

She explained that Strong TIES holds this event to not only give students insight into work being done by “amazing people in the community,” but to also give an introduction to computer science principles as well as coding using culturally relevant tools such as hip-hop music.

One student, Zayn, participated in the Turn Up for STEAM last year. “Turn Up for STEAM inspired me to work toward having a career in STEAM. One of the reasons I like STEAM is that it incorporates art, another career I am considering. Turn up for STEAM also led me to other technology programs during the summer,” said Zayn.

Strong TIES will launch “Urban STEAM Thrive Program,” a sustainable framework offered to middle high school students during Out of School Time on Saturdays starting April 2017.

“Our goal is to create an innovative and creative atmosphere for safe discovery for becoming our next generation tech entrepreneurs by giving them best in class skills and learning experiences,” says Cheeks.





The Simplest Ways Business Owners Can Learn to Code


If you are running a company that is heavily reliant on technology, I can tell you learning to code is, hands down, one of the most valuable skills I have ever acquired. Even if you don’t plan on becoming a full-time developer, having an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of software development will save your company time, money, and resources. If you consistently find yourself hitting walls due to a lack of technical knowledge, I encourage you to learn how to code. In the long run, it will make your life that much easier.

Here are my five tips if you want to learn to code:


Don’t Use an Online ‘Coding Academy’


While websites such as Codecademy receive a lot of good press, I believe they miss the bigger picture. Online courses such as these will teach you syntax—how to declare a variable—but they (in my opinion) do not show you how everything works within the context of the entire application. I once finished a Ruby course on Codecademy, and by the end, knew how to write an IF,THEN statement. However, I still had no idea how to actually build a web application, and get that IF,THEN statement to run inside the application.

Instead, I’d recommend courses that focus on how to build entire function applications, rather than learning specific languages. Sites such as One Month and Code4Startup can help you out in these areas. If you really want to get your hands dirty, Michael Hartl’s Ruby on Rails Tutorial will not only provide you with a strong foundation on how to build an application, but teach you basic programming fundamentals. It took me almost three months to get through the entire tutorial, but it was well worth the time invested.

Read more at…

Nate Andorsky is co-founder and COO at Creative Science Labs.   

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, and small business owners.

8 Educational STEM Toys for Kids at CES 2017


CES 2017, the annual technology trade show in Las Vegas, emphasized how ubiquitous robots and artificially intelligent devices will become integrated into our lives over the next decade. The demand for engineers, programmers, and technology experts to keep devices and platforms safe from hacking will continue to increase.

That said, it’s never too early to get tech into the little hands of kids, to prepare them for a technologically encompassed world. This year’s CES featured STEM toys from around the world; perfect for introducing children to concepts in programming and engineering. Take a look through the gallery, to see some of the best STEM toys f0r kids of all ages and skill levels that were featured at CES.


1. Ablix Robot STEM Kits


Image: Black Enterprise (Image: Black Enterprise)


Ablix’s kits helps kids learn about project structural building, touch sensors, temperature sensors, magnetic sensors, multisensor integrated applications, program debugging, and more. Inside the kit is a project building manual and CD with a curriculum, software, programs, and videos.

2. Circuit Cubes


Image: Black Enterprise (Image: Black Enterprise)


Designed by engineers with their own kids in mind, Circuit Cubes are electronic building blocks that add sound, motion, light, and sensors to young makers’ creations. An added plus is that they also work with Legos.

3. CoDrone


Image: Black Enterprise Image: Black Enterprise


CoDrone is a portmanteau for “coding” and “drone.” Created by Robolink, the company’s mission is to make STEM education fun and accessible. What can be a more fun way of learning to code than with a drone you can also fly?

4. Domgy


Roobo’s adorable Domgy robot makes a great companion for children and is a way to introduce kids to robots. Domgy plays music, can navigate itself indoors, performs facial recognition, along with a host of other features.

5. Edwin the Duck


Edwin may be the world’s first IoT rubber ducky. Edwin connects with his accompanying app to play soothing, nighttime sounds to help kids go to sleep, and it helps children learn through songs and educational games. Edwin also functions as a real, traditional rubber ducky because he’s waterproof. Additionally, the non-toxic material makes Edwin a good toy for teething.

6. Makeblock


Image: Black Enterprise (Image: Black Enterprise)


Makeblock offers Arduino-based, STEM,  robotics building kits that can be programmed with the Scratch language. There are kits available for those new to robotics and programming, and for those who are more advanced. Makeblock’s kits are used as actual classroom teaching tools.

7. Square Panda


Image: Black Enterprise (Image: Black Enterprise)


Square Panda turns an iPad into “a multisensory phonics learning system.” With Square Panda and the iPad, kids have interactive phonics learning games and a Bluetooth play set, with actual colorful letters kids can pick up and match with objects on the screen.

8. Zyrobotics Zumo Learning System


Image: Black Enterprise (Image: Black Enterprise)


Zyrobotics is a startup co-founded by Dr. Ayanna Howard, an African American, female roboticist, who has worked with NASA. The Zumo Learning System includes a tablet, math games, and a wireless smart toy named Zumo. The apps are designed for kids from kindergarten to third grade.



5 Tech Skills to Learn in 2017 to Make That Paper

Tech Skills

The New Year is a great time to learn new things. If you are an IT professional (or want to get into the technology field), tech career site offers great advice.

Dice lists the five top technologies most used to build out computing platforms. According to the site’s research, these technologies are not likely to become outdated anytime soon.


Go and Rust Programming Languages


Go and Rust, are two relatively new programming languages. Go was created by Google and Rust was started by a former Mozilla developer. Programmer and blogger Dave Cheney offers useful information ( on the two languages:

Go is focused on making large teams of programmers efficient, through rigid application of simplicity—ideas that are not simple or lead to non-orthogonal corner cases are rejected.

Rust is focused on a class of programs that cannot tolerate unsafe memory access (neither can Go, I don’t think there is any appetite for a new unsafe programming languages) or runtime overhead—ideas that are unsafe, or come with overhead, are rejected or at least pushed out of the core language.

Go seems to have been more widely adopted since the popular container application Docker was built from Go. However, both languages are valuable to learn.




Git is an application that developers use to collaborate on coding projects. It’s specifically a Version Control System. Git keeps snapshots of code so that everyone knows who made what changes and edited code can be restored to a prior version. It is a must-know utility for coders.




HTML is the language used to create web pages. It’s been around a long time, so some may think it’s not worth learning or mastering. Yet, it is. It’s still widely used and very helpful for building and customizing web pages.




As per Dice, “there is one programming language that you should know, it’s Python.” It’s billed as the general all-purpose programming language. Python is used for so many purposes: to create games, back-end web platforms, data analytics, and more. Plus, the consensus is that it’s a good language to learn for those new to coding.



Accenture Steps Up to Diversify Tech Talent Pipeline


Nearly a dozen African American girls, ages 10-15, received coding instruction and exposure to corporate culture during the “Hour of Code,” a program hosted by Accenture—a global technology services company.

Held at Accenture’s New York City location, the girls were led by Calena Jamieson the East Coast program manager of Black Girls Code. A number of employees  from Accenture’s African American Employee Resource Group assisted the girls with their coding. Shantel Moses, research manager at Accenture, organized the event on behalf of Accenture and Black Girls Code.

Accenture employees have pledged more than 10,000 hours to participate in Hour of Code tutorials, teach computer programming to students, and promote access to computer science education.

This is the second year the company has collaborated with to support Hour of Code. It’s a global educational movement reaching tens of millions of students through a one-hour introduction to computer science and programming.

“The need for more computer science graduates has never been greater. Last year, there were 500,000 new computing jobs available in the U.S., but only 40,000 qualified graduates to fill them. We all must do more to close the skills gap and prepare students to join the workforce of the future,” said Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology and innovation officer as well as the  ‘chief coder.’

“In today’s digital world, exposing each and every student—particularly girls and minorities—to coding is just as critical as teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. I am proud of the personal commitments Accenture employees are making to help introduce students to computer programming and the vast opportunities available to them in the computer science field.”

In addition to the event in New York last week, there are plans to hold Hour of Code meet-ups in Atlanta, India, Manila, and Paris.

“Every student in every school should have access to computer science in order to become literate citizens of today’s digital world, and explore the possibilities of computer science careers,” said Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of

“By engaging and mobilizing its global workforce to participate in events and in classrooms around the world, Accenture shares our vision and provides invaluable support in arming students with the skills they need to succeed in the future.”



Neal Sales-Griffin Discusses Empowering People Through Code

Neal Sales-GriffinNeal Sales-Griffin BE’s Sirita Wright and Neal Sales-Griffin

Back in July, Black Enterprise‘s very own Sirita Wright caught up with tech entrepreneur, Neal Sales-Griffin, while in Chicago, on The Good Life tour.

During the interview, Sales-Griffin talked about how he’s empowering the world by teaching coding and entrepreneurship at The Starter League, a school he co-founded in 2011. The educator and innovator also said that the thing he is most grateful for is having the privilege to choose his career path.

Also, he and Sirita took a moment for a little impromptu karaoke, singing the hook to one of his favorite songs, “Alright,” by Kendrick Lamar.

Take a look in the video below!

Verizon Initiative to Shatter Stereotypes of Young Men of Color


“You don’t know me, you just see me.”

“I build machines that gather light and give energy to my needs. I build robotics.”

“I code, I build; I create.”

Several young men of color make their case against those who dare stereotype them in a video from Verizon Innovative Learning—an initiative from the telecommunications giant to provide middle-school young men of color access to advanced technology classes and skills in coding, robotics, and 3D printing.

Through the program, hundreds of middle-school boys across the country have worked on a number of engineering and technology projects.

App Challenge

The Verizon Innovative Learning also includes a yearly app challenge. This is a nationwide contest open to middle-school and high-school students. The students are asked to come up with ideas for mobile apps that solve problems that are particular to their communities.

The team that creates the winning concept out of all submissions nationwide goes on to learn coding form MIT mentors. These mentors will help the students build the app, get it ready for the marketplace, and then with its launch.

A prize of $5,000 is awarded to teams that win “Best in State” with their concepts, and tablets are given to each team member.

The “Best in Nation” and “Fan Favorite” winning teams receive $15,000 and the chance to work with the MIT experts.

24 teams win at the “Best in Region” level. Eight teams win at the “Best in Nation” level and one team wins the “Fan Favorite” award.

How to Enter

Registration for the Verizon Innovative Learning’s app challenge opens in August. Entry rules are as follows:

  • Teams of students affiliated with schools and nonprofit groups/clubs can enter the contest, with an adult advisor.
  • Students must be in grades 6-12.
  • Teams should be comprised of 5-7 members, plus the advisor.
  • Teams can register from public, private, or parochial schools; or from any non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
  • Advisors must be at least 18 years old.
  • The challenge is only open to teams in the United States.

Black Girls Rock Google

Last weekend, almost 100 black girls became Google developers at the tech giant’s New York City location.

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The organization Black Girls Code led the day-long workshop in which the girls, who ranged in age from 7 to 17, were taught how to build a computer game. The workshop took place at Google’s Chelsea Market headquarters. The girls were taught how to build a game using the programming language Scratch.

Scratch is a powerful programming language, yet one cited as particularly kid-friendly. Easy and simple for beginners, Scratch features enough complexity and options for more experienced programmers. Straightforward and fun enough for even early elementary school students, it’s a good starting place before graduating to other languages such as StarLogo TNG and Pygame; this is how it’s described.

“You had to put together lots of different things to make this game that was just amazing!” said Austyn, a student who participated in Saturday’s event, to NY1 news.

“I feel like a huge reason why young women of color are so hesitant to join these spaces, walking into a room, like a lot of the really popular high school hackathons you walk in and you’re the only one there,” said volunteer Olivia Ross to reporter Natalie Duddridge about the lack of girls of color at coding and other tech events.

Black Girls Code is a nationally-renowned non-profit organization seeking to establish equal representation in the tech sector by supporting girls of color in their careers. Black Girls Code has held hundreds of workshops and project-based camps around the country, working to cultivate a passion for technology and impart critical skills to underrepresented young girls.

By promoting broader access to STEM instruction, Black Girls Code is educating the next generation of young professional women and working to diversify the technology industry. The app development workshop was broken into a morning and afternoon session. At the end of the workshop, the girls were able to present their finished projects. The workshop is just one of many events led by Black Girls Code. The organization holds regular hackathons around the country to introduce more young women of color to computer programming.

Google has also been involved in pushing efforts of diversifying the tech industry and in promoting social justice.

Recently, the company’s charitable arm,, awarded $3 million in grants to a number of social justice causes including San Francisco’s My Brother and Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) program; Oakland’s Roses in Concrete Community School; the tech-enabled college success startup, Beyond12; and the national Equal Justice Initiative.

How Coding Helped This Young Professional Double Her Salary in One Year

Jayana Johnson

Jayana Johnson

As a high school student who enjoyed HTML and CSS coding, Jayana Johnson discovered her love for tech at an early age but had no clue how to establish a career within the industry.

After dropping out of Long Island University as a broadcast major, she went back to the drawing board on what she wanted to do professionally and eventually landed a job as an events coordinator for Citigroup. After eight months at the company, Johnson then went to work as an assistant in the tech department at Weber Shandwick, and it was there that she solidified her decision to get more involved in tech.

Now, as a UX Designer for MasterCard, the 27-year-old shares how coding school helped her to double her annual salary to $100,000 in just one year.

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How did you find out about the coding program at the Flatiron School?

I happened to sign up for a newsletter with a Flatiron partner school and heard that [Flatiron] had a program in conjunction with the city that I should apply for and would be able to win a scholarship. The program started in January of last year and was 22 weeks. After [the program] you’re able to apply for an apprenticeship at a company, and from there starts the job-hunting process.

What sparked your interest in coding?

It’s definitely something I was always interested in, but it was always just an interest and not something I pursued or was told there was a possibility to have a career in. I never saw anyone who looked like me that was doing what I wanted to do. I didn’t even know how to go about it until later on in life. Now, it’s easier to ask about programs instead of going to a four-year university and having to spend so much money.

Describe your role as a Web developer.

What I do is a little bit different than what most of my peers do. One of the reasons I wanted to go with MasterCard is because not only do I do Web design, but I also do user experience design, including front-end development.

Outside of coding, what other key skills are needed to be a successful Web developer?

Other skills, besides actual tangible skills, are soft skills in terms of being able to network, because a lot of this has to do with who you know at the end of the day. So just getting yourself out there and becoming a part of the community and being involved not only in taking in the skills but giving back a lot. People will get to know you, find out what you’re about, and be willing to help you.

5 Cool Uses for the $35 Raspberry Pi 3

The Raspberry Pi Foundation just released the Raspberry Pi 3. It’s a full computer, as small as a credit card, and can be purchased from online sites including Element14 and RS Components. Its specs include 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

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This tiny machine is, as mentioned, a full running desktop PC. It is being used for everything from teaching coding to creating crazy hacks, such as turning this old Xbox controller turned into a gaming console.

There is a host of things one can do with a little imagination and know-how with the Raspberry Pi. And since the computer is affordable, it’s a great system to really learn on and experiment with. If you are new to using a Raspberry Pi computer, here are five cool beginner’s projects to try:

1. Make a full desktop PC

From You can turn a Raspberry Pi into a full desktop computer. You will need to head to the Raspberry Pi website and download the NOOBS operating system. You will also need an at minimum 8GB SD card. Format the card, copy NOOBS onto it, and then install the NOOBS software. A USB mouse and keyboard can be used with the Raspberry Pi (it has 4 USB 2.0 ports).

2. Create a media center

Also, from Stuff are instructions for turning the Raspberry Pi into a media center. From the NOOBS installation screen, look for an install package called “Openelec.” This is the media center. Once it’s installed the Raspberry Pi will boot right to this software. Copy music, movie, and images into folders you set up within the media center.

3. Build a TOR router

TOR routers are used to surf the web anonymously. has instructions for turning a Raspberry Pi into a TOR router. Instead of using NOOBS, the site recommends installing the Raspbian software. The rest of the instructions detail step-by-step the commands you need to run and how to set up the Raspberry Pi as an access point.

4. Set up video surveillance  has some great instructions  for turning the Raspberry Pi into a video surveillance system. The instructions teach you how to setup the Raspberry Pi as a camera and how to record video with it and set up motion detection.

5. Run Windows virtually has instructions on how to make the Raspberry Pi into a thin client that can run a Windows desktop session. This is done by downloading and installing WTware for Raspberry Pi and ensuring that the Windows machine is running Remote Desktop Services.