STEAM & Dream Week 2: Computational Thinking

After School Coding for Kids | Year Round Classes & Camps- iCode

This week we will be learning about Computational Thinking which is a fancy way of saying problem solving.

In this week’s lesson you will learn how to identify the important details to solve a problem, break down the problem into logical steps and create a process that solves the problem. You’ll also be introduced to topics around user experience and design thinking.

Computational thinking is an important 21st century skill which children need to start developing at an early age. You will be better prepared to thrive in a technology-filled world as conscious and critical students, working individuals and citizens. 

Presented by:


STEAM & DREAM Week 1: Learning to Code

After School Coding for Kids | Year Round Classes & Camps- iCode

This week we will be learning about the fundamentals of computer programming. In this lesson you’ll understand how computers understand you! An algorithm is a detailed, step-by-step process followed in order to accomplish a specific task or to solve a specific problem. Computer algorithms can appear complex, but the underlying concept is approachable for both adults and kids. In this weeks lesson you’ll also learn about for loops. Loops allow programmers to easily repeat code; in particular, for loops let programmers repeat code a specific number of times. Click the button “Start Week 1” to start the lesson.

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COVID-19 Social Impact Solutions for Milwaukee

COVID-19 has taken us by storm. Our first article covering COVID -19 was posted on March 22nd. On that day Wisconsin had reached ~381 confirmed cases and 4 deaths. Today there are 3,555 confirmed cases and 170 confirmed deaths.. Of these numbers Milwaukee County has 2,040 cases and 114 deaths. That’s ~57% of the Wisconsin’s cases and 67% of total deaths in Wisconsin. . 

When you take a closer look at Milwaukee County  where the population is 38% Black, you’ll find that the percentage of the counties COVID-19 deaths are 53% Black . Black people are being disproportionately impacted by this virus. Why?

Reggie Jackson, a well respected community advocate and scholar recently, addressed this question in a published article in Independent Milwaukee.  

It is a well known fact that there are significant disparities between the Black and White population in Milwaukee. Scholars have deemed racism to be one of the significant causes. In a recent article Reggie shared that research studies of Dr. David Williams, an expert on public health, show that “Increasing evidence indicates that racial discrimination is an emerging risk factor for disease and a contributor to racial disparities in healthcare”

Milwaukee has been labeled systemically dangerous for Black people. In 2019 County Executive Chris Abele declared racism as a public health crisis. Governor Tony Evers has been quoted saying that the impact the virus is having on Milwaukee County is a crisis within a crisis. 

As COVID-19 continues to take a toll on Milwaukee and disproportionately affects people of color we need to answer the following questions:

  • What is the government communication strategy to reach its most vulnerable communities?
  • How are resources being equitably allocated to effectively address this crisis?
  • How are COVID-19 tests made accessible to vulnerable populations in Milwaukee?
  • How do we hold each other accountable to keeping each other safe as a community?

Suggestions on How to Flatten the Curve

  • We need community members (residents of Milwaukee) to be an active part of the decision making process alongside government officials
  • Effective communication strategy to bring awareness to the importance of staying at home.
  • Create and effective logistics plan for retail shopping to minimize COVID-19 exposure. 
  • Leverage technology to identify vulnerable communities.
  • A close tracking of the health of those who were forced to risked their health to exercise their right to vote in the April 7th election.

Current Technology Solutions Addressing COVID-19 in Milwaukee:

Milky Way Tech Hub COVID-19 Chatbot

The Milky Way Tech Hub is working hard to address the health disparities in vulnerable communities as a result of COVID-19. The organization has created a chatbot accessible from facebook to bring more awareness to resources around COVID-19 and to address the recent health risks of April 7th election.

Here’s How You Can Help:

  • Team is in need of people to help get the word out about the chatbot
  • Team is looking for more resources to be added to the chatbot workflow

Code for Milwaukee

Code for Milwaukee has identified 5 major projects that will help the citizens of the greater Milwaukee area to stay safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presented here are those 5 major projects, plus suggestions on how you can help.

Health Platform

  • The Milwaukee Department of Health is looking to create a responsive web communication platform and notification system to help provide information to Milwaukeeans about health alerts and news.
  • The goal of Health Platform is to allow individuals to quickly read notifications from DoH from their email, or SMS device. This platform would be utilized to help distribute information to citizens in Milwaukee.

Here’s How You Can Help: 

  • This team is looking for developers who can help set up an AWS environment to install a headless wordpress install and integrate it with AWS sns for message distribution. They may also need content creators and designers to help refactor information to best suit user needs.


There is a growing need to  push stories to help ensure individuals understand the gravity of the COVID-19 and those impacted by it. It’s also extremely important to share inspiring stories about what people are doing/building out to help one another.  

Storytelling is a powerful tool when you need to create impact. By connecting the audience with relatable stories we can bridge gaps and understanding to help fight against COVID-19. 

Here’s How You Can Help: 

  • This team is in need of creatives and experts in video and storytelling to help us get the word out on COVID. From washing hands to celebrating the local heros. The more we can inform individuals through storytelling the great chances we have of flattening the curve.

Contact: is an online survey that people can use to report symptoms when they are sick, regardless of whether they have received a coronavirus test. 

The goal is to reach every person in the US who is potentially infected with coronavirus. This is incredibly important because it will help to inform what we need to do, and we lack the test kits for this information.

Current status of the project: 

  • Survey is up and collecting data! 
  • The team is waiting on final confirmation that they can proceed with data analysis
  • They are currently working on a pipeline to get raw survey data into published analysis on the website

Here’s How You Can Help: 

  • There is a need for people who are familiar with how to solve the problem of getting raw Qualtrics data into analysts’ hands, refreshed every day
  • There is a need for people to maintain the website with new daily analysis updates
  • This team is also looking for more data analysts, especially people good with creating geographical maps (preferred R or maybe Python)
  • There is also a need to translate the survey into spanish or other foreign languages, and help adding this feature to the website

Other Info:

  • Link to GitHub site
  • Department of Public Works site TBA soon

Contact: Leader: Dr. Amy Kalkbrenner (, Dr. Brian Barkley (

MKE Strong App  

This app is your guide to local restaurants, retailers, artists and how to support them. 

Milwaukee businesses and the thousands of people they employ are in distress. In an effort to assist our neighbors and curb the number of business closures, the MKE Strong app will highlight the myriad of different resources, charitable funds, business offerings, etc… available to those Milwaukee’s ready and willing to support their community. 

Current status of the project:

  • The app is up and running with over 300 listings. 
  • Next steps are to expand the number of listings and user reach. 

Here’s How You Can Help:

  • To enhance business listing growth this team needs volunteers to add more businesses and  help make sure businesses know they can submit/edit their listing.
  • To expand user and email subscriber growth. We need more people to do manual outreach to share this with their friends, family, employer, and moves/shakers in the community.

Contact: Paul Lemley ( 

This project provides case numbers and projections + a comprehensive listing of Milwaukee area resources for people in need, and ways for people to help fulfill that need.

Through this project you can find the most-up-to-date information on cases and estimates given trends and a growing evidence base, as well as a categorized listing of ways to get or give support.

Current status of the project:

Here’s How You Can Help:

  • There is a need for someone to manage social media for the project and highlight 1-2 projects 2x/day 
  • Light UI/UX work to improve flow of the site.

Contact: Kyle Halleman ( + Andrew Yaspan (

Community STEAM & DREAM

STEAM + DREAM Curriculum – A Solution for Students

The state’s Safer at Home order has transformed many parents into teachers overnight. Thousands of families are tasked with keeping the minds of young people engaged during this time.
In response to Covid -19 American Family has partnered with the Sherman Phoenix, The Milky Way Tech Hub and Connect Business Consulting to develop an online curriculum for elementary and middle school students.  The STEAM & DREAM  curriculum will touch on topics that will equip students with a foundation to launch their STEM journey. The development of the on-line curriculum allows the Sherman Phoenix to pivot programming originally funded by American Family to happen in person. Topics in the curriculum cover – learning how computers understand us, computational thinking, design thinking, app development and more.  The online curriculum will be available to those that register using the link below. 

Along with the curriculum, the group of organizations are planning to roll out 150 laptops to the community. This effort has been put in place to address the lack of devices and access to technology that currently poses a barrier to continuing education in many families. The online curriculum will be available to those that register using the link below. If you or someone you know is in need of a laptop in order to participate in the online curriculum you’re encouraged to specify this need in the enrollment form below.

Enroll Here


Tech Entrepreneurs Compete for $10,000 in The Milky Way Tech for Good Pitch Out! – Meet the Finalist

The Milky Way Tech for Good Pitch Out gives early stage startups an opportunity to pitch in front of their community, compete with their peers for funding and for the Milky Way Tech Hub community to rally around early stage startups.

Date and time:

Come enjoy an amazing pitch competition featuring tech start-ups in the Milky Way Tech Hub during Startup Milwaukee Week!

This pitch competition will bring leading entrepreneurs to The Milky Way Tech Hub – Milwaukee’s diverse tech ecosystem with the goal of supporting, empowering, and providing new and equitable funding opportunities to these entrepreneurs.

The event will be held November 16th at 88nine Radio 6pm-8pm. The Seven finalist will pitch their ideas to the judges and the crowd, competing for first, second and third place. First prize winner will be awarded $10,000 and consulting from Morpheus Advisors LLC.

Register Here! :

Meet The Finalist!

Founder: Tania Dsouza Almeida

Hope’s AI powered technology makes it easy for women to connect with doctors, counselors or holistic wellness practitioners and helps them each step of the way. Through messenger, Hope befriends and subtly educates, empowers and supports victims of abuse.

Founder: Chantel Teague

StyleQ is a mobile marketplace that connects users to beauty and wellness professionals, instantly. Using StyleQ, users request services from a selected professional with one tap of a button.

Founder: Jasmine Chigbu

Minorities to Majorities is a mobile app based platform designed to help under-represented students calculate and fill their financial needs by connecting them with opportunities, without the barriers.

Founder: Safia Siddiqui

DisasterMed is a software platform that identifies acute medical needs of disaster victims in real-time and by location. This is accessible by relief agencies and government entities simultaneously, allowing for efficient logistical decisions.

Founder: Brian Mckee

Traditional outreach has depended upon grassroots volunteering, which can be inconsistent. Businesses with large sales teams have expensive overhead costs to hire employees to get the results needed. Our solution connects people to causes using crowd sourcing and reduces overhead costs for businesses by using the app to pay canvassers to go to neighborhoods and businesses.

Founder: Shayvon McCullum

Secure Bridges is a security app to collect human trafficking data as well as city to city resources and youth profiles to end the local sex trade of children in the Milwaukee area. Secure Bridges raises awareness and promotes advocacy through strategic partnerships.

Founder: Kendrick Pullen

LifeTagger is a messaging platform that allows you to share content based on your proximity to any person, place, thing, or idea. LifeTagger allows you to add more context to your message by leveraging all the signals your phone is currently detecting. The platform allows you to send messaging in the best context (time, location, audio, bluetooth, wifi) for your intended recipient.

Big Thank you to Presenting Partner of The Milky Way Tech Hub American Family Institute for Corporate and Social Impact for making this event possible.


A Month of Panels in The Milky Way!

Panels, Panels, and more Panels!

This month I had the opportunity to moderate and speak on several panels. I picked up some amazing gems along the way that I had to share!

Toward the beginning of the month I had the pleasure of being on a panel hosted by Northwestern Mutual’s African American Employee Resource Group!  It was such an honor to sit along side amazing women to discuss  navigating tech careers and sharing the importance of representation in tech! I was super thrilled to be sitting next to Keisha Howard founder of Sugar gamers. She’s a true gem ! 

Key takeaways from this panel: 

  • Communities that want to help address the racial and gender disparities in STEM fields should commit to giving time, money and resources.
  • When exploring career paths— educate yourself as much as possible on the industry and all it has to offer.
  • Technology is democratizing entrepreneurship.— Create what you want!

This month I also moderated a panel for Northwestern Mutuals Girls in Tech day!  This panel was geared toward young girls in middle school! We talked about the power of standing out! Knowing that these brilliant young women are interested in a career in STEM gives me hope for the future! 

Key takeaways: 

  • Leverage what makes you unique.
  • Ask questions early and often.
  • YouTube University is a great way to pick up a new skill!
  • It’s possible to be artsy/creative and have a passion for STEM at the same time!

Lastly, yesterday I sat on a panel hosted by Panther Hacks. Again, it was an incredible honor to sit alongside amazing leaders in Milwaukee. We had a candid conversation about Milwaukee’s entrepreneurial capabilities and the need to address Milwaukee’s segregation issues in order to ensure Milwaukee reaches its full potential. 

Key take aways:

  • Take risks!
  • It’s better to fail big than to fail small because of the level of learning along the way.
  • Don’t allow people to project their limitations on you! 
  • Never underestimate your ability to make change!
  • Keep a solid support system.. but believe in yourself enough to fly solo if you have to. 

I ‘m grateful for the community leaders in the city that made all of these amazing events possible. I especially am grateful for the amazing folks at Northwestern Mutual that continue pour their time and resources into the community to empower Milwaukee’s tech hub!

Good stuff!

Check out my new podcast –


Jet Constellations and The Milky Way- A Moment with the Founder

Jet Constellations continues to make head way in creating an urban tech hub in Milwaukee. The Milky Way Tech Hub initiative aims to ensure Milwaukee’s tech hub is reflective of its diverse population. Watch the video below to learn more about Jet Constellations and The Milky Way initiative!


Momentum in the Milky Way

Momentum in the Milky Way!

hackthedreamThere were many notable events last week that featured tech, entrepreneurship and networking. Several of which were in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was able to attend the “Hack the Dream” event Hosted by i.c.Stars. and had an amazing time!

Hack the Dream was an incredible event that aimed to highlight the work of the Office of Violence Prevention and bring non-profits and technologist in the city together to ideate solutions for the city’s problems. I had the opportunity to participate in the pitch contest and thoroughly enjoyed my experience.

Mayor Barrett

At the beginning of the event we were greeted by the Mayor who encouraged everyone in the room to continue putting forth efforts to making Milwaukee a tech hub. I was happy to hear him give Jet Constellations Milky Way initiative a shout out! Following a presentation on OVP from director Reggie Moore, representatives of the non-profits were grouped with technologist to quickly develop a solution to a problem presented by the non-profits earlier. I was paired up with Urban Underground to develop a way to leverage technology to communicate stories of disenfranchised people. After about an hour groups pitched their ideas.
Judges William Caraher Melanie Cannon Brown Adam Gabornitz & Reggie Moore chose a local grass roots organization,  Program the Parks to be the winner!

This was an inspiring event and a great way to spend MLK day. I’m looking forward to participating in similar events in the future.


DeepVariant: Genomics Meet Deep Learning

Collage of DNA images and people

Yesterday I attended a talk on deep learning and genomics by Pi-Chauan Chang, a software engineer at Google.  Pi-Chauan gave a high level overview of deep learning and how her team formulates a problem in genomics to successfully apply deep learning techniques. She also discussed DeepVariant – a software built by Google to enable community efforts to progress genomic sequencing.

What is deep learning?:

Deep Learning is a subfield of machine learning concerned with algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the brain called artificial neural networks.

Deep learning is playing a huge role in advancements in genomic research such as high processing of sequencing techniques.  This information era where we continue to be presented with an outpouring of data has truly began to challenge conventional methods used in genomics. While deep learning has succeeded in a variety of fields such as vision, speech, and text processing it is now presented with the unique challenge of helping us to explore beyond our current knowledge to interpret the genome.

Pi-Chauan Chang shared that genome sequencing is a core technology in biology.. It allows us to ask how can we personalize medicine  based on genome?

What is a Genome?:

A genome is an organism’s complete set of genetic instructions. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build that organism and allow it to grow and develop.

There are 23 chromosome we inherent from our parents.

Most of our DNA is similar.. 99.9% of our DNA are the same– this makes us human..

Its the .1 pecent that makes us unique. 

The Human Genome Project was a milestone of genome sequencing . This was the massive international collaboration to map the complete human genome. This project outputted a  genome dictionary ~ 3.2 million characters.

A decade ago it was expensive to sequence it cost ~$1000 to sequence an individual. This creates much opportunity for precision medicine.

There is, however, a trade off.

The new sequencing technology has errors! From blood draw computational biologists get raw data(characters of ACTG) which are really short snippets of  the whole genome.. much like puzzle pieces. They try to map the puzzle pieces but are faced having to find the variants.

Variant calling:

Variant calling is the process by which we identify variants from sequence data.

Typically variant calling consist of a three step process:

  1. Carry out whole genome or whole exome sequencing to create FASTQ files.
  2. Align the sequences to a reference genome, creating BAM or CRAM files.
  3. Identify where the aligned reads differ from the reference genome and write to a VCF file.
A CRAM file aligned to a reference genomic region as visualised in Ensembl. Differences are highlighted in red in the reads, and will be called as variants.

The audience was informed that it is pretty common that computational biologists regularly inspect genomic data..

The question at hand is can we teach machines to perform the same task? Can we teach a machine to detect the variants?

This is where deep learning steps in.


DeepVariant is a deep learning technology to reconstruct the true genome sequence from HTS(high-throughput sequencing)  sequencer data with significantly greater accuracy than previous classical methods. DeepVariant transforms the task of variant calling, as this reconstruction problem is known in genomics, into an image classification problem well-suited to Google’s existing technology and expertise.

DeepVariant is now an open source software to encourage collaboration and to accelerate the use of this technology to solve real world problems!


Grace Hopper PitcHer Contest -2018


Yesterday I attended Grace Hopper’s inaugural PitcHer contest.  The goal of this pitch competition is to support, encourage, and provide new funding opportunities to women entrepreneurs. The top ten finalist competed for a grand total of $65,000.  I was elated to find that the first place prize went to my personal favorite, Shakeia Kegler.  Her business idea accompanied by her amazing stage presence sealed the deal! After chatting with her at the end of the event it was clear that she is a brilliant and down to earth woman with much to offer to the startup community. I was lucky enough to get a selfie with her at the end of the event! I’d love to invite her to Startup Milwaukee Week this year or next! Below are bios/business summaries of the winners.

 Shakeia Kegler – First Place!

Shakeia Kegler is from Saint Petersburg, Florida, and is the eldest of five girls. After graduating from high school in 2011, she joined the U.S. Navy. While enlisted, she gained experience in purchasing, compliance, and quality assurance while earning a bachelor’s degree in business management and her Lean Six Sigma Certifications.

After her honorable discharge, Shakeia worked as a compliance and contract specialist in the government, contracting department of a pharmaceutical company. Her experience in both the Navy and government led her to found GovLia in 2017. GovLia is a cloud-based platform that simplifies state and local government procurement processes to help increase small business participation in order to foster economic opportunity and growth for diverse companies and communities.

Hannah Meyer – Second Place

As COO of Pie for Providers, Hannah builds tools that aim to measurably and significantly strengthen small childcare businesses and empower the entrepreneurs that operate them. She is committed to not only building a profitable and scalable business, but doing so in a way that leads to better outcomes for women business owners, parents, children, and their communities.

Hannah holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and was awarded the Tarrson Fellowship for social entrepreneurs by the University of Chicago. She was also a Summer Associate at Ashoka in the Social Financial Services Department. Prior to coming to the University of Chicago, Hannah earned an MPPA from Northwestern University.

Charu Sharma – Third Place

Charu Sharma is the Founder & CEO of While working at LinkedIn, Charu started a mentorship program for women at the company as a passion project. This eventually inspired her to start NextPlay and to create meaningful mentorship relationships, especially for women and underrepresented minorities. NextPlay’s investors and advisors include 500 Startups, LinkedIn’s SVP Engineering, Techcrunch’s former CEO, and Microsoft’s former Chief Design Officer.

Companies like Square, Lyft, Asurion, and Splunk use the NextPlay mobile app to build sticky and measurable mentorship programs. After six months of using NextPlay’s app, mentees felt that their preparedness to achieve their goals at their companies had doubled, and mentors reported that they significantly developed their critical leadership and coaching skills. Collectively, the number of employees who strongly recommended working for their companies increased by 25%.

Charu previously built two startups. She has educated one million women on how to start their own businesses through her nonprofit, books, and documentary film “Go Against the Flow.”

Samantha J. Letscher – Audience Favorite

Sam Letscher is the Co-founder and CEO of Bossy, a platform that connects feminist consumers with women-owned businesses to drive revenue to women entrepreneurs. She launched Bossy in Chicago in the spring of 2017 while pursuing her bachelor’ degree in Integrated Engineering Studies at Northwestern University.

Sam is inspired by products, services, experiences, brands, and workplaces built by women, for women, and from which women profit. She is now a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in human-centered design and entrepreneurship.

Sam lives in Chicago where she is building and bootstrapping Bossy while working part-time in local politics. She strives to always stay curious and optimistic.