Frequently Asked Questions

A reference for parents

Who can participate in ideaSpark?

We offer ideaSpark teams for students who are ages 7 – 14. We aim to form blended teams that include a mix of boys and girls, grade levels, racial and ethnic backgrounds and experience levels, wherever possible.

How often do student teams meet?

Teams meet weekly with the same adult mentors at 2-hour sessions.
> See details on our Fall 2016 teams

Are students required to attend all of the 14 sessions?

We encourage students to attend all of the sessions, if possible, in order to fully participate in the team’s projects. However, we know that things come up – illness, family situations, school homework, etc. - and we understand.

What does my child need to bring? What does Bold Idea provide?

Students just need to bring an outgoing attitude to each session. No additional supplies are required — including laptops.

Each semester, Bold Idea provides students a 3-ring binder with a Student Guidebook (our course material and coding resources) and an ideaSpark T-shirt.

Do you offer financial assistance?

Yes, on a case-by-case basis. In order to request financial assistance, please complete a quick survey during the registration process.

What will my child be learning in ideaSpark?

By participating in ideaSpark, students will develop computer science and 21st-century skills. As students return each semester, they will continue to gain a deeper understanding and mastery of these skills, plus how to apply them to create technologies as a team. Our mentors track student progress during each session and project, while Bold Idea keeps track of student growth over multiple semesters.

> Learn more about the skills we teach and measure

Do students learn programming languages? If yes, which ones?

Yes, students will learn a programming language or more while they are creating their technology projects. During the fall 2016 semester, students ages 11 – 14 are getting practice in Javascript, one of the most popular programming languages today, while creating mobile apps. This semester our 7 – 10-year-old students are learning HTML, CSS and being introduced to Javascript, while creating their own websites. We teach programming with both visual- and text-based languages that give students experience writing programs, interspersing this with activities that challenge them as computer scientists.

The main goal of ideaSpark is student development in computer science and 21st-century skills. Computer science is much more than just coding. It includes algorithms, abstraction, data, the Internet, global impact and creativity — in addition to programming. Computer science is the art of blending human ideas and digital tools to increase problem solving power. In ideaSpark, we give students a computer science context for their projects to help them solve problems and design solutions, which they have the option to create with code.

Today, programming languages come and go in popularity and usage — therefore, it is important that students understand the computing principles that are common across all languages.

Does my child need to have any prior knowledge of coding?

No prior experience in coding is required to participate in ideaSpark.

How do you teach computer science?

We use a project-based learning model that gives students hands-on experience applying coding concepts and computational thinking. Every two students are paired with a supportive and trained mentor. With support from mentors, students follow a process when working on their creative projects that includes discovery, ideation, prototyping, testing and sharing.

> Learn more about our project development process

Who are the team mentors?

Volunteer mentors guide student learning, sitting with teams as they learn and code together. They get excited about their successes and are invested in a student’s development. Many have a technical background as professional coders while others are students from area universities, like UT Dallas. Bold Idea conducts a thorough background check as well as training and coaching sessions for all mentors that we thoughtfully pair with student teams.

> Learn about our mentors

Why teams?

From our experience, students learn best on a team with supportive mentors. They are encouraged to help their team members as they learn together and share equal participation in team projects. As a result, students are better able to problem solve, collaborate and communicate in a small group environment.

Significant progress is rarely made in computer science by one person working alone. Typically, computing projects involve large teams of professionals working together to design, code, test, debug, describe and maintain software over time. New programming methodologies such as pair programming emphasize the importance of working together.

> See the latest projects from our teams


Have another question?

If your question was not answered here, please feel free to contact us.