2020 Grants Challenge

Algorithm & Flow

Algorithm & Flow, a Faithworks Compton program, aims to diversify the tech industry by training the next generation of urban computer scientists. We teach game development, web development and the Java programming language to Black and Latino youth in South Los Angeles. We intentionally provide relatable instructors and teaching models that reflect the culture and ethnicity of our students. We created a model that offers a pathway to high paying careers that can shift the life trajectory of a student, his/her family and the community at large.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

I, Kwesi Davis, spent 15 years, at DreamWorks Animation, in the production Pipeline Engineering group. Being African American, I saw very few people that looked like me. I did not see many Black or Latino men or women in my STEM classes at university. Even thinking back to high school, it was difficult to find students with similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds that were passionate about STEM. I became interested in computer graphics programming because of my mentor Prof. Andries van Dam; the co-founder of SIGGRAPH. My sustained interest in tech, has resulted in extraordinary privilege and opportunity in my professional life. I founded Algorithm & Flow, with the nonprofit FaithWorks Compton, to spark interests in the field of Computer Science and to train the next generation of computer programmers. I know it can be done because I have a supportive network of STEM related professionals that are investing time and resources to make this work.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

I am an African American man that received an Electrical Engineering degree from Brown University; an Ivy League institution. I studied computer graphics under the mentorship of Professor Andy van Dam. Prof. van Dam is the author of Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, a seminal text in the field of graphics. I also studied film and video media production, at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, under the mentorship of Professor Spike Lee.

Over a span of 20 years, I applied my media and technology training toward a career in 3D video games and feature animation; which includes 3D Animation Pipeline Engineering tools for the Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon franchise films. In recent months, I have conducted STEM workshops to middle school children with Digital Dragon and mentored high school students through the Algorithm & Flow program.

I am living proof to youth that they can become successful and significant computer scientists.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 60

Indirect Impact: 17,400

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Question 12 Explanation

Many people are familiar with anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s magic number: 150. This number describes the maximum amount of meaningful relationships a person can manage. Today, due to the power of social media, researchers believe this number has risen to 290 meaningful relationships. Our proposal serves 60 students. So, 60 students times 290 meaningful relationships suggests 17,400 people could be indirectly impacted by high wage earning STEM students exiting our program.

Bold Vision

We expect and anticipate the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Gwynne Shotwell and Kimberly Bryant will emerge gloriously from Algorithm & Flow as next-gen leaders in STEM and innovation with the power to influence billions of lives.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Our goal is to teach young people fundamental software development techniques. In the short term, at a minimum, students need to be able to declare & concatenate strings, declare & initialize a variable to a numerical value, increment that value by some arbitrary amount, know the relational operators (equal to, not equal to, greater than, less than, greater than or equal to & less than or equal to), know the logical operators (And, Or & Not), construct an If-statement, construct a For-loop, populate & iterate an array, define & call a function, define & instantiate a class object and finally compile & execute a Java application. Absolutely every student will possess these basic skills at the end of the program.

Our long term goal is to enjoy the continued participation of our students across the span of their high school academic career. We want to instill, in them, the confidence required to sit for the AP Computer Science A exam. This AP exam is an indicator of who will study coding in college and go on to pursue a professional career in STEM.

To measure our success, we will monitor six indicators identified by The National Academy of Science Engineering and Medicine:

1. time spent learning

2. material used (see Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and AP Computer Science A)

3. depth of topic coverage

4. teacher expertise

5. tests scores & project completion

(See question 12 for more details.)

The sixth metric relates to documenting and sharing program findings; which we will also do.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​

Arts education

College matriculation

Proficiency in STEM

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to CREATE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support

Office space for meetings, events, or for staff

Capacity, including staff

Strategy assistance and implementation