Since I started playing with my mom’s keyboard as a baby and exploring web design in 8th grade, I found two of my passions- playing the piano and computer programming. I had a ton of fun exploring both activities, whether creating songs, games, or websites throughout my high school years, to writing an improvised C major music piece or a text-based adventure game in Python.
Music and computer science may seem different, but both intrigue me daily due to their highly innovative nature. One can create a melody or develop applications using an IDE and 40 lines or so of a language that is part English and part foreign coding language. I realized music and programming were more than learning and creating.
To take my passion for these subjects further, I started Bytes and Pieces, a student-run organization, to share my knowledge with others. The organization hosted a series of Zoom workshops on topics including web development and music composition for middle school, high school, and college students.
I have always loved teaching – from high school piano masterclasses to giving lectures on artificial intelligence in my high school’s AI4ALL Chapter. Passing on the knowledge helps me retain and solidify my understanding of concepts. It inspires others to use what they learn to teach others and apply their knowledge to real-world inventions and projects.
Music composition and computer programming are highly understudied subjects in schools. I started hosting online workshops to provide more profound knowledge and extra curriculum that explores these topics and extends what students learn in school. As a team, we hope to help increase diversity and inclusion, as minorities are highly underrepresented in both fields. We hope to bring our workshops to under-resourced areas and around the world.
Our Workshop Planning & Logistics
From our organizations founding date in 2021 until July 2022, I was solely responsible for planning our workshop curriculum, advertising our organization on social media pages and other platforms, and recruiting curriculum developers, workshop mentors, and a designer for our Instagram posts and flyers. Our board team includes a diverse group of mentors and social media designers from Michigan, California, Illinois, Nigeria, and India. As of February, we have 100+ participants of all skill levels in music/computer science on our mailing list from around the globe- from the US, Brazil, Morocco, Canada, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Later, in June-July 2022, I hired 20+ Executive Directors to distribute the higher volume of marketing, communications, and curriculum-creating tasks to accommodate a larger, growing student body.
The routine for each workshop is to advertise, choose a workshop time, find a mentor, develop the curriculum, teach the curriculum, and send out the Google slides and Youtube recordings to all workshop participants. I plan to host weekly workshops, alternating between music composition and computer science. Sometimes I teach a workshop or create a curriculum, and sometimes a mentor from a high school, college, or company conducts a workshop or establishes the curriculum.
Our First Workshop
In our first introductory web development workshop, I familiarized students with the fundamental basics of web design, such as utilizing color theory, balance, space, and the fundamental structure of websites, including the navigation bar, header, footer, etc. Later, I reviewed the basic syntax and content of HTML and CSS before assigning personal website projects on replit.com. Overall, 24 students from across the globe signed up for our first web development workshop. Sixteen students attended, including those from Michigan, Georgia, Brazil, Morocco, Canada, India, and the United Arab Emirates.
One factor I considered when scheduling our workshops was time zones, as we have a global participant body with over 6 or 7 different time zones. Therefore, it is critical to choose workshop times that are the most convenient for most participants. For example, late mornings and early afternoons in Eastern Times seem to suit the majority of people the best.
Another challenge we face is that many of our participants have a lot of coursework, projects, jobs, or other commitments. Some college students also have classes on weekend mornings, limiting their schedules for other activities. Thus, I make sure to send each workshop’s Google slides presentations and Youtube meeting recordings to every participant to allow them to go back through the curriculum in their own time if they missed the live workshop meeting.
In just seven months, from January to August of 2022, we have impacted 377+ students from 20+ states and 20+ nations across the globe. As of October, we grew to impact 420+ students from 30+ countries around the world. Of our students and members, 75% are female, 84% are an ethnic minority, and 60% are international. Our student base includes non-binary students, students with disabilities, and those from low-income backgrounds in Title 1 schools. We strive to support all students by providing live captioning, image and Google Slide descriptions, Youtube videos, other accommodations, and more speaker workshops with underrepresented figures in STEM and technology to empower our minorities in tech.
This June 2022, I also hosted a Bytes and Pieces hackathon, HackBytes, to apply students’ skills by creating a solo or collaborative project. Participants can compete for prizes given by our corporate sponsors, such as Desmos and NordVPN. In total, around 160+ people from around the globe participated, and I had a lot of fun hosting it!
Overall, I am thrilled with the results and impact of our workshops. Our participant body, board team, and curriculum continue to grow, and I am so glad to see people enjoying and becoming more intrigued with these topics. It is so amazing that, with just a couple of computer screens, people worldwide can connect. I hope that technology can make online education even more accessible for everyone around the globe. By distributing resources, we aim to encourage more diverse participants to develop their passions, leading to careers in technology and music. Everyone should have the resources to explore their passions, regardless of their background.
Here are a few things people said about Bytes & Pieces workshops:
“Good job on hosting the workshop! It was so informative.” – Chelsea Yang, high school student, USA
“I really appreciated how each aspect was broken down into digestible pieces. Showing where to find information was also valuable. The atmosphere was welcoming and beginner-friendly, and I can see how it could spark the interest of girls and women! And lots of awesome resources, love it! This was my first Bytes and Pieces workshop and I can’t wait for more!” – Raissa Kuzer, college student, Brazil
“The workshop and slides were very informative and were explained in a very simple yet efficient way. The overall experience was amazing. It was a great starting point for someone just beginning to enter web development. The workshop was interactive and helpful, overall a great experience.” – Kareesa Rao, college student, United Arab Emirates
“The example websites shown and the explanation of flexboxes were the most useful. Julia did a great job covering different elements, showing examples, and answering questions. The workshop had a natural flow, and you could see she was well-informed. The resources and tips provided along the way were also very helpful. ” – Maryann Nwude, high school student, USA
“I think that the most useful aspect of the workshop was the example websites that were used to help explain certain parts of code. I also think that sharing the slides after the class is over is very useful in helping us to create our own projects outside of the class. I think that this workshop was very helpful and educational. I like the teaching style in which we were shown pieces of code and how they work within a functioning website.” – Izzy Cyncewicz, high school student, USA
Click here for links to more information about Bytes & Pieces.