We advertised the opportunity on social media and offered the opportunity to present to any Pasadena area high school (there are 4) in person for up to half a day. Three high schools took us up on the offer, although no principal was actively involved or responsive. We took to cold-emailing computer science or advanced math or engineering teachers, and once we presented they gave us many more contacts. A big draw of our program is that not only is it free, it is an apprenticeship where students are paid while they learn to program on the job with mentors, classes, and structured opportunities to make progress.
For our 2017 program, we received 124 applications from 16 schools . We accepted applications by a Google Form which went straight to a spreadsheet.
Our initial application contained only a few questions and only in two short-sentence answer format. It was designed to be able to be filled out in less than 2 minutes from a phone.
- Grade in School
- Parent/guardian contact information
- Demographic information
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- If you had $40,000 to start a business, what would you start?
The philosophy behind the short application was to cast a wide net for applications by creating a simple to fill out application approachable by students with any time commitment. The diversity numbers of our applications as well as the pure volume showed that this was a good approach.
We extended every student who applied the opportunity to interview, with multiple reminders to schedule an interview via email and text. We deployed code into Google Sheets to text student applicants and their parents/guardians as reminders. The source code for texting on the basis of Google Sheets entries is available here. In the end, we did 74 interviews.
We used interviewing.io a platform that provides scheduling, VOIP, phone call as a backup, recording, note taking, and interactive coding all in one for interviewing as well as a function to give students and interviewers pseudonyms. To replicate the process without interviewing.io you could use Doodle to schedule interviews, a free conference calling solution with recording, and coderpad.io for the interview, coupled with taking notes in an actual spreadsheet. We highly recommend interviewing.io. We had 10 volunteer interviewers, with a variety of different experience level.
Each interview took 15-20 minutes, and interviewers were instructed to follow the following protocol:
Roughly, we went through the pseudo-anonymous interviews and rejected those which met grounds for rejection. Then, we made a second pass and put applicants in bins of low, middle or high for 6 different criteria. We tried to optimize for high passion and grit, and then have a good mix of the other 4 criteria: age, experience, career ambitions, life changing potential, and school of origin. We came up with a finalist group, with these ratings and then unblinded gender and demographic information, using it only to break ties between people of the same rating, prioritizing diversity. When we unblinded gender and demographics, we saw we had more than 50% women and a good mix of other criteria. We only did a few swaps of students of the same rating on other criteria to ensure we had a good mix of a class on all our criteria as well as demographics.
We selected 12 students of the following demographics. 1/3 were beginner, 1/3 middle, and 1/3 advanced in programming experience level. 1/3 of our selected students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program. We had a 16% selection rate from the interviews done, and a 10% selection rate overall using “able to schedule an interview” as one of our criteria for grit and logistical competency rating.