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A STUDENT with All Star Code learns how to work a production board from AT&T SportsNet director Mat Williams. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

It may turn out that few of the 28 students enrolled in this year’s All Star Code Summer Intensive program go into the production side of sports broadcasting, but the skills they are learning in the program are certainly applicable to that profession.

That’s why Sean Gray, Pittsburgh area director for All Star Code, took them to AT&T SportsNet on the North Shore—in addition to Duolingo, Google, Simcoach Games, Schell Games, COLab18, Uber and the BNY Mellon Innovation Center.

“Each student has a different perspective on why they are in the program. Some of our students in Pittsburgh may not be exsposed to coding—but the tech industry is more than just coding,” he said.

“There are opportunities outside of sitting behind a computer. Part of my goal is to expose them to as many opportunities as possible, so they can see they can work in marketing, communications, legal, or design—different from what they imagine as computer science or tech.”

This is the second year the All Star Code Summer Intensive program has been offered in Pittsburgh—the program originated five years ago in New York City as a vehicle to close the opportunity gap for young Black and Latino men in the tech sector.

This year’s Summer Intensive program for Pittsburgh-based students runs from July 9 to Aug. 17.

According to the All Star Code website, Blacks and Latinos comprise less than 10 percent of the tech sector workforce, and only one percent of the startups being funded by venture capital have Blacks or Latinos among their founders.

Last year, 18 high school sophomores and juniors learned JavaScript, HTML and CSS using lab space provided by Chatham University. This year, thanks to an increased donation of $100,000 from AT&T (the company supported All Star Code last year as well), 28 students are taking part; half at Chatham and the others at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. And thanks to other sponsors like Heinz Endowments, Eden Hall Foundation, Hillman Foundation, Comcast, the Grable Foundation, Jack Buncher Foundation and Microsoft Philanthropies, the program is entirely free, and all the participants receive a new laptop.

The young Black men in this year’s cohort hail from City High Charter School, Steel Valley High School and Brashear High School. among others.

While at the AT&T SportsNet studio, the students peppered staff like production coordinator Danny Rodriguez, editor Mark Thompkins and director Mat Williams with questions about how a Pittsburgh Pirates broadcast is put together. They learned how broadcast signals travel from PNC Park to Atlanta via satellite before returning and going on-air. They got to “draw” on the screen with the graphics telestrator in the studio and operate the “jib” studio camera.

Student Terrell Williams said though he isn’t particularly drawn to tech, he’s having fun learning the STEM skills and building a website for the program—and he had a great time playing with the jib.

“Yeah, this is cool. I’m interested in going into photography,” he said. “So, this is fun.”

Though All Star Code only been in Pittsburgh two years, Gray said it is having a positive impact on the kids.

“So far, 89 percent see themselves moving on into the tech industry, 90 percent say they are working harder in school and 89 percent say they are more confident in making presentations about their work,” he said.

“This is a great start, but it will take more than six weeks. The system needs to change in a lot of ways.”

 

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