I met Stephen in July 2008, about a year after he had built his original prototype that would one day evolve into CodeSpells. I remember checking out his Facebook soon after meeting him and being shocked by screenshots of what the community has affectionately termed "The Statue" (see The CodeSpells Story blog post here). (I, a good Southern girl, found The Statue in poor taste.) So I asked him about The Statue, and he told me about this awesome project he had been working on with his friends at college. In those early days, I was a social butterfly who made friends with everyone, but especially cool people who were working on fascinating projects. Stephen and I hit it off!
Fast forward to 2014: Stephen and I are attending different PhD programs at UC San Diego, where the CodeSpells research prototype had been conceived and tested in his graduate lab. In our spare time, we began dreaming of what CodeSpells could be in the future and formulated a plan. As Stephen worked with Adrian and Jason to put together the Kickstarter Prototype of CodeSpells, we also worked on prepping for the Kickstarter itself. This is where I truly got involved with the project! My job would be trying to get the backers we needed to make the CodeSpells dream a reality.
The Kickstarter was a wild, exhilarating ride and ended up being a huge success! We ended up reaching 328% of our funding goal, which allowed us to build way more features than we had originally planned.
As the Kickstarter's funding campaign came to a close, I continued to promote the game via press releases and social media. I also helped the team share Kickstarter updates and distribute Kickstarter rewards.
After the Kickstarter funding phase ended, I worked on CodeSpells on a very part-time basis (we wanted to use MOST of the funds on development and not marketing at this point). So my attention re-focused on putting the finishing touches on my dissertation at UCSD and developing a for-profit computer science education business that would become my full-time job after I finished my PhD program.
Later, as development on the Kickstarter version of CodeSpells came to a close, my passion for computer science education grew. For several years, my work with ThoughtSTEM centered around starting new coding after-school programs and summer camps for local kiddos, with a secondary goal of trying to get more girls involved in computer science. I also helped promote a new educational software we built for teaching coding to kids through Minecraft called LearnToMod! Within the last year we started a new nonprofit called MetaCoders that's currently teaching online coding classes to kids via Zoom during COVID-19, and wrote a book about teaching and learning computer science called Don't Teach Coding: Until You Read This Book.
Teaching kids coding at a local STEM fair.
Hanging out with an Enderdragon at Minecon while promoting LearnToMod.
Lindsey & Stephen, trying to be all professional for once.
Working with some of our students in a coding workshop.
Posing with the winner of the 2014 Scholastic Coding Faire at UCSD.
Constantly promoting STEM education at local events.
My work with ThoughtSTEM was full of excitement, but nothing quite lived up to the thrill of the CodeSpells Kickstarter, nor the sense of community I felt with the wizards who supported the game's development throughout the years. When COVID-19 hit, we noticed renewed conversation on the community Discord channel, and an idea crossed our minds... Stephen's blog post here picks up that story.
Now, I'm excited to be back to serve the CodeSpells community!
I'm SO psyched to see what we can build together, y'all!
Stay tuned for more!!
- Lindsey D. Handley
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