A computer whiz at FIU helped turn other students into award winners and earned a $10,000 scholarship and an industry internship in the process.
Computer science senior and peer educator Henry Rivas received the scholarship from CodePath and the United Negro College Fund for his facilitation of a mobile app course to help 34 students gain new industry skills and also build strong community during the pandemic. The scholarship will cover the costs of Henry’s remaining senior year classes. He also was offered an opportunity to participate in the IBM Accelerate internship program.
CodePath provides FIU students with no-cost computer science courses, mentorship and career support to prepare them for careers in tech. Its mission is to increase diversity in tech by transforming college computer science education for underrepresented minorities and underserved populations, all in collaboration within FIU, a top producer of Hispanic engineers.
Rivas helped launch CodePath’s relationships with FIU, said Victoria Angulo, head of growth and university relations at CodePath. “Rivas was part of the UPE student group [the FIU chapter of a national campus tech organization] and he was interested in deepening his Android experience as well as becoming a leader on campus. He applied to become a Tech Fellow—a student leader that is trained by CodePath to successfully deliver CodePath courses to their peers—at FIU for the spring 2021 semester.”
Rivas saw the opportunity to facilitate courses posted on the FIU WhatsApp group. “CodePath focuses on practical knowledge, not only theory,” he said. This resonated with him. “I highly recommend CodePath because it gives extensive support to students. There are technical assistants standing by to assist the students with their assignments. It’s a matter of keeping students engaged, where they can tinker and ask questions.”
When asked about his monetary award, Rivas said, “I was surprised. I wasn’t focused on getting the money. I was focused on doing a good job, to leave the students with the knowledge of Android development.” His biggest challenge, he added, “was I didn’t have that much experience in mobile development, but I can get up to speed quickly and do a good job.”
To do that, RIvas had CodePath technical assistants review the material for any questions he had on concepts for Android Development. He also used both YouTube and FIU LinkedIn for supporting study material for Android Development.
"As a facilitator, my main responsibilities were teaching the Android course to my students,” Rivas said. “A typical class session would be teaching the material for the first half. In the second half, I would separate students into teams to work on the lab assignment for that week.” He was able to get students comfortable with pair programming and applying the concepts taught in class.
Outside of class, Rivas organized Zoom sessions where students could schedule appointments so they could troubleshoot problems they had with their assignments or group project. Near the end of the 12 weeks, he also provided counsel and guidance to help teams make effective, winning presentations about their mobile apps for the “demo day” competition that Codepath held in June.
One student of Rivas’s was Anthony Pena, a rising senior in computer science at FIU. “It was an enriching experience to see Pena put all the work in to become a finalist in the competition,” Rivas said. “He and others started at ground zero and are now making apps that can be seen in the Google Play store. Pena and Aldo Socarras’s app, PaperClutch, a receipt management app that eliminates paper receipts in order to reduce negative environmental impact, is now available for download.
“Rivas was extremely helpful,” Pena said. “He would schedule weekly support sessions for all the FIU teams that participated in the demo day. He did this out of his own time and for no better reason than to help others. As a result, I believe he had a big part in our path to placing first at demo day.”
“CodePath is an invaluable resource to FIU students who wish to expand their knowledge of technology,” said Jason Liu, interim director, Knight Foundation School of Computer Information Sciences (KFSCIS), College of Engineering and Computing. “We consider CodePath to be a valued partner in the students’ college experience and look forward to continuing this relationship.”