NYC Software Engineering Pilot (SEP) Program and SparkFun Electronics

One of the largest public school entities in the country kicked off a pilot program to integrate Software Engineering in grades 6 and 9 for 20 different schools. SparkFun was chosen to support their foray into embedded electronics, arduino, and eTextiles.

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Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg announced that 20 middle \ high schools across all 5 boroughs of NYC would take part in a new Software Engineering Pilot (SEP) program to introduce and infuse computer science concepts for students in grades 6 - 12.

In the first year of this pilot program, about 1,000 students in grades 6 and 9 will be introduced to fundamentals of electronics, programming, web design, robotics, and mobile computing. The plan is to spiral this curriculum so that students are exposed to rich topics in computing and technology throughout their middle and high school years. A large section of this curriculum will be based around Arduino using the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit and the LilyPad Protosnap Development Board.

This past summer, teachers at each of the schools received extensive support and professional development in preparation for the upcoming school year. At the end of July, a small group from SparkFun flew to NYC to help support training for teachers in this pilot program.

Over the course of three days of intensive training, we laid the groundwork for teaching programming concepts, basic electronics, and arduino. In addition to focusing on concepts around arduino and programming, our team also dedicated a great deal of time on pedagogy, content delivery, pacing, and assessment methods. To provide a jump start on developing classroom materials, we shared several example activities, grading rubrics, and class investigations.

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Teachers from 20 different schools were introduced to circuits, electronics, and programming with our SparkFun Inventor’s Kit. Many learned to program for the first time during our three days with them!

This fall, teachers will be integrating the maker philosophy into their classrooms with Arduino, Lilypad, and other tools of embedded electronics. Their students will be empowered with the ability to design and control electronics to create and invent something new. SparkFun is excited to be an integral part of this initiative in NYC. We see this as a strong model that can be replicated in other cities and school districts across the U.S.

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New York City is leading the way in developing a model for not only using computers and technology in the classroom but actually focusing on developing computational reasoning skills for all students. Our 21st century learner should graduate not only being a user of computers, but our students should also have strong skills in understanding how to develop, create, and manipulate computers and technology in our everyday lives.

Are you a teacher using basic electronics, programming, or arduino in your classroom? Interested in getting us involved with your school? Leave us a comment below, or send an e-mail to

“Our enthusiasm for digital technology about which we have little understanding and over which we have little control leads us not toward greater agency, but toward less…We have surrendered the unfolding of a new technological age to a small elite who have seized the capability on offer. But while Renaissance kings maintained their monopoly over the printing press by force, today’s elite is depending on little more than our own disinterest.”

― Douglas Rushkoff, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age

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