Code for America: We coded our way into this, now help us code our way out


Around fifteen hundred city government employees and civic-minded technologists passed through the Downtown Oakland Marriott last week during the three-day Code for America Summit.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gave a welcoming address, and sales pitch to civic hackers:

“Oakland is the birthplace of the Black Panthers and the Hell’s Angels. We’ve got mad love for disrupters,” Schaaf said. “Oakland is the hottest place for urban innovation… this is not your daddy’s bureaucracy!”


“Free the entrepreneurial bureaucrat!”

She also remarked on the recent announcement that Uber was moving its headquarters to Oakland.

“Now as a government… they did not ask for tax breaks, or special treatment or exceptions. So there is nothing I can force them to do. But you better believe I sent them a very explicit letter welcoming them, letting them know that I am here to help them become members of our community. And that some of our expectations about how they express that citizenship is about specific commitments around achieving equity, fighting displacement, supporting our local economy and also about being a good compassionate neighbor through environmental practices, hiring locals, charity work.”

There’s a building spree on in Oakland, with 14,000 residential units in the pipeline, the vast majority market-rate, and rents went up 9.1 percent last year, the largest jump in the country. The city’s black population is down by nearly a quarter since 2005.

Mayor Schaaf proposed the notion of “tequity” (“I’d love to see that trending at the end of the day, you’ll make my day if you hashtag that”) and made a stab at summing up the mission at hand at the Marriott.

“We need tech to drive equity to make up for the wrongs of the past. Let’s all be honest that government hasn’t always served people equally and now we have a new tool to make up for that and correct it…”

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Wonder Workshop Teaches Children to Code Using App, Robots


Wonder Workshop, a company focused on robotics and hands-on play for children, has announced the release of its Wonder app on iOS devices, aimed at teaching children computer science through the appropriately-titled ‘Wonder’ coding language. The app connects to Wonder Workshop’s real-world robots, named Dash and Dot, and allows users to program actions for the robots using cues within the app.

Designed for children eight and up, the Wonder app offers level-based challenges, which focus on teaching the robots to perform specific ‘behaviors,’ like activating sounds or animations, by connecting behaviors with ‘cues.’ These cues can be things like button presses or hand claps, as examples.

Wonder Robot

These level-based challenges allow the robots to learn new abilities, while a Free Play mode encourages children to experiment on their own with the abilities they’ve unlocked, and create new behavior strings for the robots to complete.

In a statement, Vikas Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Wonder Workshop, commented:

Coding and robotics are 21st century building blocks that give children the power to create, be curious and succeed. We’ve developed a language that gives our plans and intent an immediate visual form with the touch of a finger. This intuitive interface will help every child discover robotics as never before, and bring robots like Dash and Dot to life with their creativity.

The Wonder app is available to download for free on the iTunes App Store, and is coming to Android later this month. By downloading the app before purchasing the robots, parents can get an idea of what their children can expect if they do invest in the products.

Alongside this launch of the Wonder app, Wonder Workshop has released the Dot robot (the smaller of the two) as a standalone product, priced at $ 49.99. Dot comes with games children can play immediately, but can also be programmed by children as they learn to do so. Dash, meanwhile, is the larger robot, and is available for $ 149.99. Users can purchase a bundle containing both Dot and Dash for $ 199.95. Additional accessories are available to purchase on the Wonder Workshop website.

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