Many thanks, Stephen

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I first met Stephen a couple of months after arriving in St. Louis.  I had just returned to the city after living in Iowa for several years and was trying to start another dojo after Iowa City.  My last dojo had been an amazing experience and I’d learned a lot about how to be a champion, but I was still apprehensive about the challenges a larger city would provide.  How do I reach anyone?  Who would support the dojo?  Where would I find volunteers?  Was anyone willing to take a chance on a CoderDojo?

So it was a miracle when I found Stephen.  I hadn’t been working at organizing for more than a month when I found out that there was this guy who was setting up a table at the Science Center once a month looking for volunteers to sign up for a dojo!  Who was this masked man??? He’d set up a website.  He was talking to sponsors.  What in the world…?

And that’s how I met Stephen.  He’s still one of my favorite people: if you haven’t had the chance to talk with him, you have missed out.  The first impression I had of him is this conundrum of soft-spokeness and passionate enthusiasm that I still have trouble emulating.  CoderDojoSTL wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.

 

So thank you, Stephen, from all of us at the dojo.

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Champion journal – Feb 2017

I got the idea to begin a journal on being a champion and what it’s like behind the scenes as a way to communicate with parents and volunteers and start the conversation in our dojo on how to be more transparent and informative with everyone.  Please comment and let us know if you find this helpful.


A couple of weeks ago, my company closed our local office and I found myself back in the job market.  It was sudden and has involved a lot of adjustment, so needless to say, I haven’t been very focused on preparing for the upcoming dojo on the 11th.  Usually I just wing it anyway (dojos are pretty forgiving, IMO), but this month was more so.  MUCH more so.

Now I’m driving to the dojo…

The Tuesday before I had given a lightning talk at a Python meetup on tech education and some of the tensions within that space at the elementary and secondary school levels.  (It was a great talk – until my slide froze and I had to wing it. *shrug*).  After the meeting, there were a few people interested in CoderDojoSTL and I was hoping to see more mentors and collaborators from it.  So, unfortunately, I was setting myself up for failure this weekend if we had any new mentors – I’m not prepared to do any formal orientation and if we’re short-handed, even an informal one will be tough to swing…

This was also the first dojo where we were going to collaborate with InventorForge (http://www.inventorforgemakerspace.org/) to teach robotics using their Sparki kits.  Robotics and electronics is an area I’m really excited about, but have ZERO knowledge in.  (My Arduino has been patiently gathering dust in my workshop until I think of something…)  We were supposed to start robotics last month, but an ice storm had canceled the dojo and I had forgotten to follow up with Jeff @InventorForge before the dojo.  I have an old desktop in the car just in case we need to do a tear-down for the robotics-minded kids…

Lastly, it is a beautiful day in February.  I mean, beautiful!  I’m wearing shorts, for heaven’s sake!  In February!  Did I mention February?!?

Oh, and the Eventbrite event page has been blowing up this month with sign-ups.  (We use Zen (http://zen.coderdojo.com) to issue tickets but so many people are on Eventbrite we keep the page up.)  That doesn’t worry me too much because, again, the weather is gorgeous…  About a 1/3 of the Eventbrite registrants don’t show under normal circumstances, so no worries there.

Now I’m going to get to the dojo late; my son has now informed me he hasn’t eaten lunch (it’s almost 2 PM), and there will be 10 new mentors all jazzed up to teach kids coding and no kids there at all!  I’ll never see them again and next month will be the inverse!

Great.  Just great.

So it’s weird when I show up and there’s more than a few cars in the parking garage.  Oh, I see Jeff outside the entrance.  It looks like he’s locked out – okay, so I’m late AND the first mentor here.  Those cars were just employees working the weekend, I guess.  This doesn’t look good for the home team, folks!

But then this guy Tom from our host CenturyLink opens the door and is sort of frantically  asking everyone with glasses if their name is Dave.

Okay… now flags are starting to wave.  What is going on here?

We get up to the 4th floor and I see this crowd of ninjas and parents doing a warm-up exercise we do before each dojo!!!  Our volunteer-parents are completely owning the dojo – FOR THE WIN!  And not a moment too soon – it looks like everyone of the new signups are here.  I don’t recognize half the faces in the crowd, which is again awesome!

While the ninjas are getting to know each other, I grab the supplies tub and start setting up the stations with Jeff and Jesse, another mentor.  It turns into one of the best dojos I’ve had in ages – one of the parents is Angie, the newest St. Louis area champion (St. Peters), and another parent tells me he wants to start one in the Edwardsville, IL area.  SWEET!

It just goes to show that sometimes life surprises you.


Thanks goes out to all the people who made this dojo possible:

Tom, Dana, Bob and everyone at CenturyLink Cloud Development Center

Jeff Lawrence and InventorForge Makerspace

Rob and Kotomi Dorman

Angie Rhodes (CoderDojo St. Peters)

All the parents and ninjas who make it awesome!

#eventbrite, #mentoiring, #mentors, #parents, #ticketing