Dhat Stone Academy and Bay Area Tutoring Assoc. Host Urban Students' Labor Day Weekend Coding Competition Supported by Ben Vereen, Oculus VR, Rainbow PUSH, Nipsey Hussle

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The goal of the 'We Are Code' virtual reality hackathon is to create a learning environment where students from underserved, urban communities can participate in STEM education and technology design, and explore careers in the rapidly advancing world of high technology.

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Event dates (Sept. 3-4, 2016)

“We congratulate the founders and co-producers of the 'We Are Code' Virtual Reality Hackathon for preparing youth in underserved communities to compete on equal footing for employment and entrepreneurship in the digital work space.

OAKLAND & COMPTON, CA: Dhat Stone High Tech Learning Academy (Compton, CA) and Bay Area Tutoring Association (Oakland, CA) are excited to announce the organizations will host the highly-anticipated 'We Are Code' Virtual Reality Hackathon during the Labor Day weekend (Sept. 3-4, 2016). The live streaming coding competition between youth teams in Compton, CA (SoCal) and Oakland, CA (NorCal) will involve nearly one hundred 7-to-11th graders from each area. While the event's final stage planning persists, diverse and unrivaled partners continue to pledge support for the unique project. Multi-genre artiste Ben Vereen, virtual reality innovator Oculus VR, Inc., reputable social justice, civil rights and political activism organization Rainbow PUSH and hip-hop rapper Nipsey Hussle each have committed unique forms of sponsorship to this first-of-its-kind programming competition.

The 'We Are Code' VR Hackathon experience inside host sites, NASA Columbia Memorial Space Center (Compton) and East Oakland Youth Development Center (Oakland), will create a platform for teams of youth to attend workshops on virtual reality technology, animation design, mobile apps and website design, innovation and creativity realized through partnerships with computer programmers and technology specialists.

The objective of 'We Are Code' VR Hackathon is to ignite a passion for innovation and inspire youth of color to come up with their best mobile apps or website ideas that attempt to solve issues in their respective communities. Over the event's two days, the hackathon will be transformed into a lively virtual reality space, where the youth take center stage with coding classes, interactive virtual reality sessions, healthy meals and refreshments, and extreme fun! Skills to be learned include communication, code thinking, teamwork, entrepreneurship, out-of-the-box thinking and much more!

This live-streamed competition between SoCal and NorCal students will allow finalists to exhibit their projects, prototypes or designs to a panel of professional judges to win cash and other prizes, along with the incubation of their ideas. The program is being designed to ensure two full fun-filled days with musical performances, community leaders, celebrity guests, space center simulations and an inspirational learning fest. Event promotional video.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition commented, “We offer congratulations to Dhat Stone Academy (Compton) and Bay Area Tutoring Association (Oakland)—founders and co-producers of the "We Are Code" Virtual Reality Hackathon—for preparing youth in underserved communities to compete on equal footing for employment and entrepreneurship in the digital work space.”

For end of day entertainment, accomplished and versatile stage and film actor and singer Ben Vereen will be on-site in Compton, CA on both competition days. Vereen said, "Give the young people the tools they need today to make our tomorrow better and brighter with positivity." Additionally, one of the 21st century’s most revered singer-songwriters and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center Choir, Rickie Byars Beckwith, will perform two solo selections on Saturday evening. Acclaimed hip-hop rapper Nipsey Hussle will also perform live for the youth.

Dhat Stone Academy and Bay Area Tutoring Association are also delighted that Mary T. Duda, president and CEO of SCiOart Inc., will deliver the weekend's keynote address. She is a Media Eco-System expert in Virtual & Augmented Reality and educational initiatives. Duda is the woman behind the buzz … "NASA meets NASCAR," the Moon Racing Challenge (MRC), that is the first virtual gaming experience for PCs and arcade cabinets. MRC accurately renders NASA's physical and topographical data of the moon, while sitting in a full motion seat that operates like a rocket ship on wheels. Duda infuses virtue into the virtual—creating games that are engaging, entertaining and enlightening.

The simultaneous live-streaming coding sessions and related activities will take place Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4, 2016 from 8am to 8pm at the following venues:

NORCAL:    East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC)
8200 International Blvd., Oakland, CA 94621
Register online: blackchamber.com/wearecodevrhackathon

SOCAL:    NASA Columbia Memorial Space Center (CMSC)
12400 Columbia Way, Downey, CA 90242
Register online: hackevents.co/hackathons/2112

Hacker registration deadline is Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Signed parent/guardian permission forms are required.

All competitors will receive gifts donated by sponsors. First place Hackathon winners in both Compton and Oakland will receive cash prizes, VR headsets provided by Oculus VR, Inc.—a virtual reality company recently acquired by Facebook, Inc.—and a chance to have their application ideas developed through a business incubator. Unofficial Cardboard will create engaging virtual reality experiences using smart phones.

'We Are Code' VR Hackathon producers are grateful for sponsors' generous contributions and the support of its partners: NASA Columbia Memorial Space Center, East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), Priority Housing (Compton), San Jose/Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Oculus VR, Inc., Culture Shift Labs, Unofficial Cardboard, SCiOart Inc., NanoVR, Vision for Compton, Kapor Center for Social Impact, David E. Glover Center for Technology, Dhat Stone Academy and Bay Area Tutoring Association. In-kind and monetary sponsorships are encouraged to support youth in this planned ongoing program.


  • Bay Area Tutoring Association, San Jose, CA | 408.945.8003

Founder, Chris Norwood | BayAreaTutor.org

  • Dhat Stone High Tech Learning Academy, Compton, CA | 818.408.9761

Co-founders, Drs. Tariq Sawandi and Charles Thomas | dhatstoneacademy.org

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