Bit by Bit is a nonprofit located in Portland that started running programs in 2018 and incorporated in 2019. Our mission is to equip the next generation with the tools of technology, thought, and leadership to improve the world, bit by bit.
We strive for low-cost programs to teach and encourage students, especially girls and other underrepresented youths in the STEM community, to code, to examine the world, and to lead. We currently offer three programs: Form and Function, and Uncommon Sense. Form and Function is a free after-school program empowering middle schoolers with the tools of web development. Uncommon Sense allows high schoolers to examine the world critically and see things with a skeptical eye. We also train student volunteers to adopt the responsibility, initiative, and dedication critical to strong leadership, all through hands-on learning. We started as a summer camp to teach middle school girls how to code, and the following year, we expanded to clubs for middle schools and high schools. In 2020, we also incorporated critical thinking as one of our services.
Bit by Bit Coding started with a problem, a bug in the programming community: a girl walked into the engineering building at Lake Oswego High School, and she froze. She was the only girl. Again. The same thing had happened to her last year. That meant one of two things: either, she’d just experienced an event with less than a one-in-ten million chance of happening, or there was a serious gender imbalance in STEM. Nobody else in the class seemed to notice anything. But she saw it and felt it and got fed up with it until finally, she met a classmate with a similar story who helped her do something about it. Midway through high school, in 2018, Sydney Von Arx and Selena Zhang founded Bit by Bit Coding, a nonprofit dedicated to giving everyone the chance to code. That summer, Bit by Bit ran its first iteration of its summer program, Hello World, that taught middle school girls web development. The next year, Bit by Bit launched its year round program as clubs at the middle and high schools.
In 2020, we had to move our programs online for the first time ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this came with a host of new challenges, it also brought new opportunities to reach students across the globe. We expanded our vision to offer programs to hundreds of students and grew from simple web development to more complex topics like machine learning.