STEM Summit Tour Stop

A blog of a different kind - Straight from the new CodeJoy Studios!
June 14, 2024 by
STEM Summit Tour Stop
CodeJoy, Kelsey Derringer

Background: Once a School, Now CodeJoy's Dream

For the past few decades, the little old school with the big bell on Cherry Street has been home to a few different businesses, and also quite a few pigeons. As CodeJoy has been making renovations to turn the old classrooms into new studios, we’ve been learning more about the building. Behind one old chalkboard, we found a much older piece of slate, which children had signed with beautiful cursive back in 1908, when it was ostensibly covered up! We’ve also had the pleasure of hosting a few of the old school’s former students, who told us stories about the teachers who used to teach in each of the old classrooms. It feels right that months of renovations culminated in welcoming student visitors with the STEM Summit Tour in April! This historic space, likely unseen by students for decades, is ready to bring education back within its walls and become host to the future of educational media. The new CodeJoy studio aims to be fully operational by summer 2024, with just a few finishing touches remaining.

Now, let me tell you a story. This one is called, The Day the School Came Alive.

For decades, the Cherry Street School stood silent. Dust motes danced in any brave sunbeams that dared to peek through the grimy windows. Whispers of forgotten lessons echoed in the halls, a ghostly reminder of its former glory. Then, on an unremarkable and rainy Pittsburgh day, a gaggle of youngsters invaded the school's slumber!

These weren't your average disaffected youth. These were STEM Summit participants on a mission from the Pittsburgh Technology Council - future tech whizzes brought by school bus to witness the peculiar magic of CodeJoy!

Imagine! Students — real, live students — tromping through the halls that had last seen such activity in, well, let's just say a very long time. Ms. Small's old classroom, now CodeJoy's main video studio, buzzed with the first "Robot Mini Golf" game ever played within its walls. A young lad named Gus, bless his cotton socks, even managed a hole-in-one! The old classroom, its crumbly walls unused to such excitement, creaked in delight. The students’ raised hands caused the room itself to stretch and crack its knuckles. Ms. Small’s old room was ready.

Next, the curious crew shuffled into Mr. Pilot's old classroom, now CodeJoy's office.  Questions flew faster than a rogue ping pong ball! A bright young lad named Will wanted to know how one gets a job at a place like this (a perfectly reasonable question, in this writer's humble opinion). Co-founder Kelsey, bless her sensible shoes, explained that CodeJoy needed "teachable artists.”

“No one already has the skills we’re looking for - because we pioneered them!” she explained delightedly. “We’re looking for teachable artists. People who are willing and able to learn, and who bring fresh ideas to the team.” Mr. Pilot's classroom, used to the rambunctiousness of fifth graders, felt a pang of nostalgia for the “teachable artists” of his classroom in the 60s, all messy art projects and chaotic spelling bees.

The tour continued, each room bursting with CodeJoy's wacky inventions. Miss Veblun's old third-grade haven, soon to be the Asynchronous Learning Studio, hosted a robot dance party. Students, giggling like hyenas, coded the robots' arms while others danced a jig with their cardboard companions. One bright eyed student asked, “How do you come up with these designs?” Co-founder Matt, bless his paint-splattered Converse, shrugged and replied, “I’m a puppet guy.” Gesturing to the Jim Henson books at his desk, he said, “Robotics for me was just another way to control a puppet.” Miss Veblun's classroom beamed at the lot of them.

Finally, with a million questions left to ask but a bus driver with a tight schedule, the students shuffled out, leaving the old school in a bittersweet daze. Miss Tizza's first-grade room and Miss Bowers' fifth-grade room, the sites of studios yet-to-be-built, gave a hopeful sigh. They, too, longed for the day they would be included on the tour of learning at CodeJoy.

As the students left, the rain-slicked windows of the Cherry Street School reflected a sight it hadn't seen in years: the sight of young people waving excitedly from a yellow bus, wondering when they would get to return. Matt and Kelsey, CodeJoy's masterminds, sprawled on a couch in Mr. Pilot's classroom, sharing a relieved laugh. They had pulled it off! The school, its dusty heart suddenly lighter, couldn't help but think, "Welcome home, CodeJoy. I’ve been waiting for you."

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