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Student Riteka Murugesh Launches Organization to Teach Tech Concepts Through Storytelling

Riteka Murugesh, 17, remembers her first time working with GitHub, a tech industry tool.

“Being introduced to GitHub for the first time during my sophomore year, I spent quite some time scouring through user guides that seem to be intended more toward professionals,” said Murugesh, a resident of Sunnyvale.

In December 2019, Murugesh began plans to launch CodELEVATE (sites.google.com/view/codelevateinitiative). As President, she recruited friends Nikita Senthil, 15, and Safaa Hussain,15, to serve as Co-Vice Presidents.

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“CodELEVATE is an initiative that eliminates disparities in tech education mainly through educating students on skills in GitHub, which is an industry tool that allows people to collaborate on code, and skills in HTML, which is used for web development,” Murugesh said. “Believing that GitHub is an important industry tool for young students to be exposed to, I decided to frame the lessons for GitHub in a creative way in the form of short stories. For example, for the curriculum that we’re working on for American learners, the stories for GitHub revolve around the experiences of two young students named Puja and Jackie, how they got exposed to GitHub and how they’re learning through it.

“GitHub is a platform where people can work on code even if they’re not physically in the same place,” Murugesh continued. “These stories basically start off showing how these two females try to code a website together but they need a place to work on it together from a remote location because they’re not always together.”

According to Murugesh, in CodELEVATE’s first lesson for GitHub, there is a hypothetical situation where learners can see how emailing code files back and forth to each other is challenging. Then the lesson introduces GitHub as a tool for collaboration on code projects as a solution to this problem.

“Currently because of the pandemic, it has been hard for us to find places to hold workshops,” Murugesh said. “But we have been in touch with the Sunnyvale Library to hold a couple of online workshops at the end of October. We have partnered with hackathons to send our curriculum to them. A portion of these stories are published in the CSforALL Curriculum Directory.”

According to Murugesh, CodELEVATE is also partnering with an ethno computing organization in Africa called Ethonoma, an initiative-based and student-led organization with a mission to teach math and computer science through cultural elements in Africa.

“I also learned from Ethonoma that ethno computing is about using culture to introduce computing concepts,” Murugesh said. “The leader of Ethonoma really likes that we’re using characters in our stories to make the teaching of concepts more personal. We’re working with them to see how we can tailor our curriculum to serve those who live in Africa. Currently, we are exploring the cultural elements there to see how we can incorporate those elements into our curriculum.”

Presently, all of Murugesh’s team members are high school or college students.

“The organization is an initiative-based and student-led organization,” Murugesh said. “CodELEVATE is not an official non-profit organization, but our work is non-profit.”

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