White House LGBTQ Tech and Innovation Briefing Tuesday August 23rd, 2016

I was honored to be chosen out of 3500 applicants to attend the White House LGBTQ Tech and Innovation on Tuesday August 23rd, 2016. Over 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people gathered to address some of our nation’s biggest issues. The goal was to bring together some of the best LGBTQ minds to help provide insights to improve government policy and process. 

 

We started the day hearing from Megan Smith CTO of the United States about various LGBTQ tech initiatives within the US government. Then stakeholders from departments hosted lightening talks about some of the issues they hope to use our insights to solve. Topics focused on women and girls, the environment, criminal justice, youth and the foster care system, healthcare, entrepreneurship and innovation, and finally tech hiring and inclusion.

We got a surprise visit from Ellie Schafer, Director of the White House Visitors Office who brought along Obama’s furry best friends, Sunny and Bo for a photo op.

After lunch we broke out into sessions based on our area of interest. I was in the tech hiring and inclusion group with a focus on STEM education. We focused our brainstorm session on the need to support Teachers who have been mandated by the Obama Administration to teach Computer Science in US schools nationwide. We ended the breakout with a rough plan for what we need to do to prepare for during the summit in November.

We ended our day with a surprise tour of the east wing of White House. It was inspiring to walk through the rooms filled with historic artifacts. Seeing official portraits of our former presidents, checking out the titles of the books in the presidential library, and just roaming the halls of our nation’s most famous landmark renewed by appreciation for our country's principals of liberty and justice for all.

Next Steps

Our Stem Education break out group is setting up a Slack channel so we can continue to brainstorm and plan our event for the Summit. I have been invited to speak and/or participate as a Summit organizer for the TechUP Inclusion + Innovation Week conference and the LesbiansWhoTech Event in SF in October. Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech will be sending more info about speaking and organizing soon.

 

Yale Women's Leadership Forum

I spoke at the Yale Women's Leadership Conference on Women In STEM. The questions we received echoed many of the issues ladies in silicone valley discuss: dealing with imposter syndrome, overcoming unconscious bias, and navigating hostile environments for women and people of color. The glass ceiling won't break until each of us keep running to toward it. Making it weaker with the force of our power, intelligence, and grace. And more importantly, clearing the runway for the next woman to get a running start. 


Soledad O'brien Starfish Foundation- Women in STEM Panel

On July 26, 2014 I was honored to take part in the Soledad O'Brien Starfish Foundation's PowHerFul Panel, STEM the Next Frontier. 

The Summit was a one-day event for 200 young women between the ages of 15-21 from under-served communities across New York City, that provides a space for inspiring conversation, teaches them to dream big, and provides them with the tools to succeed in life.

It was a beautiful day of uplifting talks and support from successful women from many career paths and backgrounds. I was impressed with the questions the ladies asked about the tech industry and what it is like to be in Games. I hope to work with some of these bright young women in the near future.

STEM Panel

Speaking on STEM panel with Soledad O'Brian moderating.

Computing in the Classroom - NY Times - Room For Debate

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/05/12/teaching-code-in-the-classroom/coding-is-the-third-language

The Third Language

Lisette Titre is a video game developer and an educational curriculum consultant. She is on Twitter.

MAY 12, 2014

In the tech world coding is often referred to as the "third language," providing another means of communication outside of written and oral language skills. In fact, coding should be considered another language requirement, as a supplement to the traditional English grammar or foreign language class. It has the potential to make young people better writers and communicators. I have had students -- seniors in high school - -who couldn't rely on basic English language skills to grasp coding proficiently because it relies so heavily on proper syntax to function.

This presents a greater question. If those language-challenged students had used coding to support their early learning would it have made their English skills better? The study of coding forces students to learn proper syntax or "spelling" to make their scripts run. Perhaps it could be used as a carrot to drive students to learn the foundations of reading, writing and arithmetic. This points out the greater challenge that our current education system has created; inequality. Students who aren't exposed to coding could possibly get left behind by those who have acquired the skills to compete in the global economy.



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Topics: EducationSTEMTechnologychild development

Games They Love, Skills They Need - New York Times - Room For Debate

"Learning is remembering what you’re interested in." -- Richard Saul Wurman 

 

Children love video games. They are captivated by them. We've all seen the toddler with an iPad who can't read but can navigate to their game of choice with no assistance. Your teenagers’ heads can be buried deep in their phones playing Angry Birds or on the couch playing the latest console game for hours.

But when students are in class, dealing with some of the same science and math that are at the heart of those games, their teachers struggle to hold their attention for longer than a few minutes.

If students create their own video games they can better learn geometry, trigonometry and coding.

Science, technology, engineering and math subjects are not engaging today's students because the students cannot relate them to their interests and what excites them. What if we peeled back the curtain and harnessed our children's attention for video games by teaching STEM topics while they create their own games?

Trigonometry is used to calculate a player’s movement around the game world. Those angry birds you fling are using physics to drive the velocity and the impact on those pigs and bricks. Geometry is used to draw the characters that your children idolize. Millions of lines of code are written by computer scientists to drive the game engines used for blockbuster video games.

Curriculums like Activate and Globaloria are available for teachers to include video games in their lesson plans. Game development tools are readily accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Programs like GameMaker andGameSalad are free to download and include tutorials. Products like Beta: The Gameand Game Star Mechanic teach children basic coding, game design and analytical thinking skills. Extracurricular youth programs like BlackGirlsCode.org,GirlsWhoCode.org, the ClubTech program, Code.org and more are available to kids who are interested in learning how to code.

There is a small movement reforming the way we teach STEM, but it is a slow trickle compared to the increasing technical demands of our globalized and connected world. Without a unified and modernized STEM education curriculum that holds our students' attention, our children will continue to lag behind in the very subjects that hold the keys to their future.

Project A Game - Youth Uprising

Youth Uprising (YU) a trans-formative community center in East Oakland reached out to me to help consult on a new after school program focused on bringing STEM topics and game development together to create an on ramp for under served youth into the Tech fields. 

My organization, Blacks In Gaming, collaborated with Y.U. and E Line Media on an 8 week curriculum using Game Maker to teach kids basic coding, game design, and analytical thinking skills. I taught the second semester during Spring of 2013. I was amazed by the student ability to grasp the concepts quickly. I am proud and honored that Project A Game was recognized by California governor Jerry Brown on Sept 16, 2013.

http://www.youthuprising.org/

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?id=9250983

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Leveling Up - Environmental Protection Agency SF

Julia Jackson from the environmental protection agency reached out to me to be the Keynote speaker for their Black History month celebration. The title was Leveling Up, Lessons Learned from a Career in Games. I covered lessons I learned from projects that I have completed over the years. Some highlights include:

  1. Learn to wear many hats but don't be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

  2. Never let anyone steal your thunder

  3. Learn from Others

  4. Be Bold and Push Boundaries - 

  5. If the boss isn't happy. Your not happy.

  6. Embrace Change or Else

  7. You Can't Polish A Turd

  8. Trust Your Gut

  9. Speaking to Power - The art of saying “No” without saying “No”

  10. “Be the Change you want to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi

Career Day - Black Girls Code

Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, contacted me to come out the Bayview  and speak to her first class of 12 girls. I was impressed by inquisitiveness and their technical questions, like how long art assets took to create and how game mechanics worked. They also wanted to know if I had any cheat codes. Kimberly is teaching them well.

Black Girls Code is devoted to showing the world that black girls can code, and do so much more. By reaching out to the community through workshops and after school programs, Black Girls Code introduces computer coding lessons to young girls from underrepresented communities in programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails. Black Girls Code has set out to prove to the world that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow. By promoting classes and programs we hope to grow the number of women of color working in technology and give underprivileged girls a chance to become the masters of their technological worlds.

BGC has now reached over 2500 girls in 8 cities. I'm so proud of what she has been able to achieve in such a short time,

http://www.blackgirlscode.com/

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Women in Stem - Black Enterprise Magazine


http://www.blackenterprise.com/2011/03/01/women-in-stem/

 

The Computer Animator
Lisette Titre
Senior Character & Special Effects Artist
EA (Electronic Arts)

ACG artist and computer animator Lisette Titre has contributed to some of EA’s highest profile games, including Tiger Woods Golf for Nintendo’s Wii, The Simpsons, and Dante’s Inferno.

As a character modeler, Titre takes data from scanned images of characters or real-life individuals and reworks the information to build a 3-D digital sculpture. After the character’s digital skeleton is built, she takes the skeletons and applies computer modeling controls so the fingers will curl, the legs will bend, and the character moves with fluidity.

Titre, who is often the only animator working in-house on her projects, also manages a team of outsourced artists in China, Australia, and Canada. Each team can consist of five to 20 people who work on game titles for as little as one year to as long as four years.

After graduating magna cum laude from Miami International University of Art and Design with a degree in computer animation, Titre finds herself virtually alone in her field—something she hopes to change as a member of Blacks in Gaming, a nonprofit dedicated to creating networking and collaboration opportunities for blacks in the gaming industry. “I’ve never worked with an African American woman in an artist’s capacity,” she says. “We need more diverse ideas. We keep seeing the same thing over and over again.” Blacks in Gaming is starting a mentoring program and plans to reach out to middle schools in Oakland, California, and other underserved areas.

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