Mentor Monday: Meet Amy

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Amy Czuchlewski is a member of the Bold Idea Board of Directors and also serves as a mentor for our CS First program. Skilled in mobile technologies and building effective engineering teams, Amy is the VP of Engineering at Bottle Rocket.

Bringing her passion for equitable access to computer science education, especially among girls, she is a strong asset to the Bold Idea team.

Meet Amy...

What is something many people don't know about you?
I come from a family of computer wizards.  My dad was a systems administrator (cool story - back in the 50's he was working in yards & grounds at Kellogg's and they were looking for young guys to learn about computers so with no college degree he worked in IT at Kellogg's for 43 years!), my sister taught high school computer science, my brother was a database administrator, and my mom was an administrative assistant and we all know that they are the ones who really know how all the computers really work in an office.

How did you become interested in technology and programming?
My dad had a computer in our basement, and I used to spend time down there teaching myself to program it using BASIC.  I didn't realize that what I was doing was actually "programming", I was just making graphics and setting them to music.  Eventually I took an aptitude test in high school that said computer programmer would be a good career for me, and the pieces just fell into place.

What did you study in college?
I have a bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan.

What are you working on now?
I am the VP of Engineering at Bottle Rocket, a mobile/connected device specialist that defines, designs, and develops applications that connect future-focused brands to their customers.  Our more than 350 iOS, Android, wearable, AR/VR, voice, web, and TV experiences have set new standards in connecting people to what they want and are redefining how they live their lives.  To learn more, visit us at  I'm incredibly lucky that I get to do what I love, every day!

What have you gained from being a mentor? What was your most memorable moment while mentoring?
I love spending those two hours every week with my daughter, sharing something I love with her and getting her excited about coding.  One of the coolest things that's happened for me while mentoring is that we have this one student in the CS First program, a girl, who is by far the most talented coder in the group and everyone knows it.  The rest of the children (even the boys) go to her for help and I think that is just amazing to watch.

Is there anything that you wish you could tell your younger self about coding?
Coding is just like solving puzzles - it's fun!

What is it about Bold Idea's mission that really connects with you?
I read that 99% of parents want their children to learn computer science but only 40% of schools in Dallas actually offer it in the curriculum.  I think its great that Bold Idea is working with schools, community centers and local area tech companies to expand the reach and make computer science education accessible to more of our students here in the Dallas area.  Not only is it helping build future technologists in our students, but it is creating a community among the mentors as well!


Mentor Monday: Meet Todd


Meet Bold Idea volunteer Todd James - a Bank of America business analyst on weekdays and a mentor for our east Dallas middle school coding team on Saturdays. 

Todd is passionate about increasing the diversity found on most IT development teams and enjoys supporting the diverse student teams at Bold Idea - "Anyone can code and everyone should have a chance to learn these skills which have real world applications."

Meet Todd...

What is something many people don’t know about you?
I was a foreign exchange student to Brazil in High School.  It was an amazing experience and has fueled my passion for travel as an adult.

How did you become interested in technology and programming?
I’ve always had a natural curiosity in technology.  As a kid, I used to take apart my electronic toys when I got bored with them.  When I was in 5th grade I burnt out an old hand me down computer by forcing an even older Atari game cartridge into the expansion slot, needless to say my parents weren't too happy.  I took a deeper interest in programming when I began a job performing application support at a telecom which paired me with development teams to troubleshoot and resolve a number of problems.  The satisfaction of resolving these issues has been a motivating force.

What did you study in college?
I got my Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology in college.

What are you working on now?
My latest position is as a Business Analyst with Bank of America.

What have you gained from being a mentor?  What was your most memorable moment while mentoring?
For me, mentoring has been a chance to shake things up a bit and give back to my community. It’s rewarding to watch students successfully tackle problems with the tools and advice we’ve taught them.  My favorite part of the program is watching students perform their demos at the end of the semester.

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about coding?
I would have changed my major in college.

What is it about Bold Idea’s mission that really connects with you?
I love the diversity in these Bold Idea classes and they do not match the typical IT development departments I’ve worked in.  Anyone can code and everyone should have a chance to learn these skills which have real world applications.


Mentor Monday: Meet Sukhmani


Sukhmani Sandhu has mentored Bold Idea students as young as 6 and as old at 14. The UT Dallas senior discovered coding in college and is passionate about encouraging young students to give it a try.  

Meet Sukhmani...

What is something many people don't know about you?
I love to draw and paint. Many people are surprised that I am interested in math and science as well as more artistic subjects. I believe that it is important for the students to know that art and math (or science) are not mutually exclusive, but actually interact in very interesting ways.

How did you become interested in tech and programming?
I was always interested in building things and taking things apart. I would always ask for Legos and other building toys for my birthdays. I joined the robotics club in middle school and was able to learn more about technology and engineering. As I got older, I was able to combine this with my interest in medicine, through biomedical engineering.

What are you studying in college?
I am a senior (woot woot!) at UT Dallas, studying Biomedical Engineering.

What have you gained from being a mentor? What was your most memorable moment while mentoring?
While mentoring, I have realized that I really enjoy teaching. I am now open to career paths that I had previously not considered.

My most memorable moment while mentoring happened a few semesters ago, when a student came in on the first day, acting as if she was quite uninterested in coding. The other mentors and I had to persuade her to participate in first activity of the session. But at the end of the day this same student seemed genuinely sad that the session was over and was eager to continue her project. Being a part of this development on the very first day, and throughout the rest of the semester, was incredibly fulfilling and memorable.

Is there anything that you wish you could tell your younger self about coding?
I wasn't exposed to coding until I started college. Based on how much I loved it as soon as I started, I would tell my younger self to try it out, even if none of my friends are doing it.

What is it about Bold Idea's mission that really connects with you?
All students should have access to resources and skills that help them develop the ideas and create the projects that they are interested in. They should not have to limit their creativity because of a lack of knowledge of their own potential. Through the programs at Bold Idea, more students are exposed  to new technical and professional skills that will help them in future endeavors. 


Help Us Celebrate Our Birthday

On August 20, 2015, Bold Idea became an official public charity with 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Since then (and even earlier), our organization has helped 400 students create their bold ideas as a team through the power of technology. 

In fact, the birthday cake above was coded in Javascript by Hope Ehlers, a Bold Idea student for the past two years. 

Give $20 on the 20th

Twenty dollars. What does that mean to you?

Dinner and a movie? A few lattes? The latest bestseller?

But when hundreds of people put $20 into a charitable fund, just imagine the possibilities!

When you donate $20 on the 20th of each month (or whenever you can) to Bold Idea, you can help us mentor more young coders like Hope. Indeed, it can provide the resources a coding team needs to be successful: laptops, resource books, web hosting, training for volunteer mentors, and a Demo Day stage to share their projects.

So, please, this month, skip a few lattes. Donate $20 on the 20th!

Your support really means a lot.

$20 on the 20th


"I've enjoyed Bold Idea because I like programming, and I made a lot of new friends. Programming needs a lot of creativity in order to actually program. And it makes me more of a better student, because I can take what I learned, like making a cake, and code a birthday present." 

- Hope Ehlers, 7th grade

A Year of Going Bold

An introduction to the Bold Idea fiscal year 2017 annual report.

Dear Bold Idea Friends,

Bold Idea strives to be a forward-thinking organization that prepares students in the Dallas community for 21st century success - and the progress we have made in fiscal year 2017 is helping us reach that goal.

With cooperation from parents and principal Rachel Moon, Bold Idea piloted the ideaSpark and CS First programs at Rosemont School in Dallas ISD - our first school partnership. Bold Idea served 32 students across 24 weeks at the elementary school in north Oak Cliff.

Support from new partners Microsoft, Pivotal Labs and Alliance Data enabled us to greatly expand Demo Demo - giving students a larger stage and screen. Student teams presented 43 creative projects, including mobile apps and websites.

After six months of hard work, 8th graders Shelby and Meredith presented their websiteService Match’ to 500+ Microsoft employees. The website connects nonprofits to student groups in need of service projects, built entirely by the two young coders.

In January, we introduced a curriculum for our youngest students in grades 3 - 5. The CS First program is designed by Google to introduce core computer science concepts for students with varied interests, like sports, art and games. Coinciding with the program launch was our new partnership with the Wesley-Rankin Community Center in west Dallas, where Bold Idea served 16 Hispanic students meeting at the Center after school.

Together, We Create
In a world dependent on computing, Bold Idea is giving students real-world experience creating their bold ideas as a team through technology - supported by professional engineers and creatives.

Today, most kids are going online to play video games. They download apps and connect with friends on their mobile devices. Bold Idea students are creating their own games and apps, using problem solving skills, creativity and computer programming skills. Through a highly-crafted curriculum and dedicated mentors, we teach students to create rather than just consume technology, and turn their device time into valuable teaching time.

At this time last year, we challenged our students and community to Go Bold - our theme in 2017. Together, we stepped up to the challenge.

  • Our students went bold. Teams of young coders created over 650 computing projects.
  • Our volunteer mentors went bold. Students received 3,948 hours of mentoring total, from a team of 67 mentors.
  • Our donors went bold. Generous corporations, foundations and individuals gave over $66,000 in monetary and in-kind gifts to Bold Idea.

Growing our organization to meet the needs of 21st century students requires tireless dedication, leadership, vision and significant investment. Thank you for joining us on this journey - and for supporting Bold Idea.

On behalf of the Bold Idea Board of Directors and staff, it is my honor to present our 2017 Annual Report.

With gratitude,
Robyn Brown
Co-Founder and CEO

Mentor Monday: Meet Joey

In our opinion and the opinion of his 3rd-5th grade team, Joey Glover is a great mentor. "I like Joey, because he is funny!" 8-year old Alai'a told us. A skilled teacher, Joey has a unique ability to explain the most challenging computer science concepts to any age. For the past year, he has worked with our CS First elementary-age team meeting at UT Dallas' ATEC building and has succeeded in making coding approachable for his students. 

"He pushes them to make sure they understand the concepts presented in the CS First videos, and to go further, if they want," said his fellow mentor Stella Lin.

Meet Joey...

How did you become interested in tech and programming?
I feel like I have always been interested in technology and programming, but I think one of my greatest inspirations was playing the old game Roller Coaster Tycoon.  It was just so magical to build cool rides and incredible to see all the people interacting together in the park, and it was all done through a really clever program, so it got me very interested.

What did you study in college?
Electrical Engineering

What are you working on now?
I work as a software engineer at Raytheon in the Identity Services department.  I am currently working on updating our development processes to the 21st century and coding various back end services to help other internal businesses interact with LDAP.

What have you gained from being a mentor? What was your most memorable moment while mentoring?
I really love to teach, so I've gained a place to be able to teach others, and to teach something I am passionate about.  My most memorable moment was when we were creating a platforming game and one of the students was spamming the screen with one of the sprites.  It was pretty hilarious, but kinda you had to be there. 

Is there anything that you wish you could tell your younger self about coding?  
Don't be content with speculating about something that could easily be researched.  In relation to coding, this means if some piece of software does something interesting, don't just speculate about how it might be done in code, but instead look and search and read about how it was done. 

Is there anything about our mission that really connects with you?  
The thing that connects with me the most is the idea that all students deserve the opportunity to learn computer science.  I believe the more freely we exchange ideas and information the more quickly society will get better.  We are not the owners of any information, and the more we spread the information the more refined it will become over time.

Mentor Monday: Meet Quang

Quang Tran is a lead software engineer at Flywheel Building Intelligence in Dallas. During the spring semester, he volunteered as a mentor with 3rd-5th grade students at the Wesley-Rankin Community Center.

Meet Quang...

How did you become interested in tech and programming?
I started learning programming back in my high school in Vietnam. I didn’t really like programming back then because students mainly studied to compete. We had to remember boring algorithms and always programmed in Pascal. Fast forward to college, I decided to give programming another chance and it worked out beautifully. I enjoyed creating programs that actually help people. Understanding the magic that makes the computer work and overcoming programming challenges were also fun.

What did you study in college?
I earned my bachelor degree in Computer Science from UT Dallas. I majored in Biochemistry but after the first semester, it was clear that I am not interested in theoretical work. I wanted a career track with more hands-on experience and quicker iteration cycle. That’s why I switched to Computer Science (partly because of my high school background) and stick with it ever since.

What are you working on now?
I am a software engineer for Flywheel Building Intelligence Inc. We are building a cloud-based platform that offers real-time people, energy, and building management service.

What have you gained from being a mentor? What was your most memorable moment while mentoring?
Being a mentor confirms my interest in teaching, especially teaching programming to kids. Funny enough, my most memorable moment doesn’t come while mentoring. It was when Robyn and Ben brought in the programmable robots. The kids were so excited and immediately started to play with the robots on their own. That’s when I understand how important it is to gamify and brainstorm interesting activities in order to attract the kids.

Is there anything that you wish you could tell your younger self about coding?
Being able to code something does not mean you should do it. You should always think about the big picture and align your work with the ultimate goal of the project. Your work must bring value to the product and your team.

Is there anything about our mission that really connects with you?
I always believe children are the future. Vietnam is a developing country. In order to reach its full potential, education and children must be the #1 investment. Bold Idea’s focus on developing and empowering young minds, especially through computer science - something related to my background, really resonates with my belief and personal interest.

Mentor Monday: Meet Stella

Editor's note: Stella Lin volunteers with Bold Idea's youngest students in our CS First program, which uses Google curriculum and the MIT Scratch platform. When she's not mentoring Bold Idea students, Stella is a program and project manager at Sprint. Read her journey below from the daughter of programmers to building macros in Excel and now Bold Idea.

Meet Stella...

By Stella Lin

Both of my parents were programmers. I remember playing with "punch cards" at my mom's office when I was growing up. She later tried to interest me in books on object-oriented programming in C, but I studied Economics in college. I didn't get the programming "bug" myself until I started working as a Financial Analyst and started to write my own "macros" to automate my reporting.

I decided to go back to school full-time to pursue a M.S. in M.I.S., but I found a job soon after through a consulting firm who offered to train me in the mainframe programming languages (like the ones my parents had worked with) that were in demand again during Y2K.  

I joined Sprint as a full-time employee after my contract ended, and was excited to use new middleware, which I later helped to rewrite in JAVA, to open up some of our mainframe programs to be accessed over the internet in my first development project after Y2K.

Fast forward a few years later, when my "Enterprise Web Solutions" team at Sprint was outsourced to IBM.  Instead of applying to be "rebadged" to IBM, I chose to stay at Sprint to work with my former "customers" on the business side and as an SME resource for the new IBM team.  

In many ways, I feel that this experience helped prepare me to be a CS First mentor because Google's curriculum has given the kids all the tools they need to complete the programs on their own, but they may sometimes need an "SME" to help point them in the right direction.

I really love seeing the kids' satisfaction when they are able to complete and run their programs in Scratch.  It reminds me of my first experiences building "macros" in Excel and Access, as opposed to reading about object-oriented programming concepts.

Open Positions on Bold Idea Board of Directors

Founded in 2015, Bold Idea is an education nonprofit based in Dallas that combines computer science, mentoring, and team-based learning to empower a diverse student population in Dallas and Collin Counties. Premised on the belief that computer science is foundational knowledge that ALL students need, Bold Idea's mission is to develop and empower young minds to execute their bold ideas as a team through the power of technology. Program participants learn computer science and 21st century skills through hands-on computing projects with support from trained, technical-skilled mentors.

Bold Idea's core educational programs, ideaSpark and CS First, serve boys and girls ages 8 - 16 of all demographics and socio-economic backgrounds. Delivered through both open-enrollment sessions and collaborations with schools and community centers, students learn and apply computer science skills via project-based learning. At the end of these after-school programs, students also develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and perseverance.

Board of Directors Recruitment
Bold Idea is a public charity with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. Bold Idea’s immediate governing and fund development responsibilities rely on the support of a separate Board of Directors. The Board supports the work of Bold Idea and provides mission-based leadership and strategic governance. While day-to-day operations are led by Bold Idea’s president, the Board-President relationship is a partnership, and the appropriate involvement of the Board is both critical and expected.

Specific Board Member responsibilities include:

 Leadership, governance and oversight

  • Serve as a trusted advisor to the President as s/he develops and implements Bold Idea’s strategic plan
  • Approve Bold Idea’s annual budget, audit/progress reports and material business decisions; being informed of, and meeting all, legal and fiduciary responsibilities
  • Represent Bold Idea to stakeholders; acting as an ambassador for the organization
  • Ensure Bold Idea’s commitment to a diverse board and staff that reflects the communities Bold Idea serves
  • Determine which programs are consistent with the organization’s mission and monitor their effectiveness
  • Contribute to an annual performance evaluation of the President
  • Assist the President and Board Chair in identifying and recruiting other Board Members
  • Partner with the Board Chair and other Board Members to ensure that board resolutions are carried out
  • Serve on committees or task forces and taking on special assignments

Board members will consider Bold Idea a philanthropic priority and make annual gifts that reflect that priority. So that Bold Idea can credibly solicit contributions from foundations, organizations and individuals, Bold Idea requires that 100 percent of members make an annual contribution that is commensurate with their capacity, but no less than $2,500.

Board terms/participation
Bold Idea’s Board Members serve a two-year term to be eligible for reappointment for one additional term. Board meetings are held bi-monthly and committee meetings will be held in coordination with full board meetings. Board Members are also expected to attend at least one program event during the year.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for an individual who is passionate about Bold Idea’s mission. Selected Board Members will have achieved leadership stature in business, philanthropy, education or the nonprofit sector. His/her accomplishments will allow him/her to attract other well-qualified, high-performing Board Members.

At this time, Bold Idea is seeking Board Members with specific experience in at least one of the following areas:

  • fund development
  • education
  • strategic planning
  • communications
  • marketing
  • budgeting
  • finance

Ideal candidates will have the following qualifications:

  • Extensive professional experience with significant executive leadership accomplishments in business, education, philanthropy or the nonprofit sector
  • A commitment to and understanding of Bold Idea’s beneficiaries, preferably based on experience
  • Savvy diplomatic skills and a natural affinity for cultivating relationships and persuading, convening, facilitating and building consensus among diverse individuals
  • Personal qualities of integrity, credibility and a passion for improving the lives of Bold Idea’s beneficiaries

Service on Bold Idea’s Board of Directors is without remuneration, except for administrative support, travel and accommodation costs in relation to Board Members’ duties.

Nomination Process
Submit your resume and one-page cover letter outlining interest and qualifications to Robyn Brown,

Sponsor Spotlight: Alliance Data

We are proud to announce our Powered By sponsor for Demo Day Spring 2017 - Alliance Data


Based in Plano, Texas, Alliance Data consists of three businesses that together employ more than 17,000 associates at approximately 100 locations worldwide. Though you might not know the name, you may have seen what the company does. Alliance Data is the engine behind loyalty and marketing campaigns for more than 1,000 consumer-facing companies worldwide across all industries: retail, travel, pharmaceutical, financial services, auto, and more.

The company's data-driven insight enables it to build dynamic and creative loyalty marketing programs and strengthen and deepen relationships between its clients and their customers. In today’s changing-by-the-minute digital landscape, that’s more crucial than ever.

Community impact
Alliance Data actively invests in the community to create a stronger, more engaged workforce and a vibrant, more sustainable society.

At Bold Idea, we are excited to kick off our collaboration with Alliance Data this month. The company's support of our third Demo Day event will have a huge impact on the students we serve in the ideaSpark program!