May 10, 2023

Ctrl+Shift 2023

Through this annual coding competition, Philly teens were able to showcase their work and demonstrate what’s possible for the next generation of tech!

Now in its sixth year, Ctrl+Shift helps high school students learn the end-to-end process of website creation from professionals in the tech field and put their skills into practice in a fun and competitive environment. After several weeks of mentoring sessions and workshops, the students presented their websites and competed for a chance to win the grand prize. Learn about their journey, their projects, and what the next generation of Philly tech is capable of.

Mentoring Sessions

Every week our students met in person for mentoring sessions with Coded by Kids instructors and local tech industry volunteers. These sessions allowed the teams to work together to make progress on their websites, develop their tech skills, make connections with peers, and get feedback from the mentors.

“My involvement with Coded by Kids has been amazing. I met so many friends along the way and created a lot of relationships … with students who are like minded with me and wanna get more into tech, which is absolutely amazing.” — Ayan A.

Coded by Kids Instructor Jesse Onyango-Opiyo was able to work with the students over the course of the program. “Ctrl+Shift was an amazing experience for me because I could teach and learn from students at the same time. Pushing students to think outside of the box when approaching problems is one of my favorite parts of teaching, and I got to do that while learning about their interests as they designed their websites,” he said. “The competition format drives students to be creative with their designs as they tackle coding them and I love that.”

Virtual Workshops

“We had tech professionals come in and teach us industry level skills that you wouldn’t learn anywhere else …They gave us an insight into the actual business world of how you would present, how you would work on the project, how you would manage your time.” — Jason L.

Intro to Design Thinking

The first virtual workshop introduced the students to design thinking and user experience. These important principles not only helped them develop their Ctrl+Shift projects, but is foundational to all of the tech work they will create in the future. Thank you to Russ Starke from Think Company for leading this workshop and inspiring our students.


Building on the design thinking and user experience skills they learned at the last session, our Ctrl+Shift students learned the importance of wireframing during the second workshop. They engaged in different activities that helped them understand the wireframing process- from mapping out their websites and utilizing industry tools to bring their ideas to life.

Project Management

Creating and maintaining a website involves a lot of moving pieces. The third virtual workshop taught the students how best to manage all the concurrent tasks that go into building a great website. They participated in several activities preparing them to diligently track all elements of their projects. Thank you to volunteers from SEI Investments Company for leading this workshop and your continued support of our students.

Iterate, Test, Repeat

Once your project has a solid foundation, it’s time to start making improvements. During the final virtual workshop, our students learned the Iterate, Test, Repeat process. In addition to evaluating their current projects, they were taught best practices for testing their website’s performance and responsiveness in different environments. Volunteers from SEI returned to lead another session and continued to inspire our students.

Competition Finals

After weeks of workshops, mentoring sessions, and hard work building their websites, our students presented their projects during the 6th Annual Ctrl+Shift Coding Competition Finals. Judged on the structure of their code, as well as the design and complexity of their websites, our finalists challenged themselves and impressed our judges. We are so incredibly proud of all the participants and are thrilled to announce our 2023 Ctrl+Shift winners:

  • First Place: Sign-ify
  • Second Place: Javatastic
  • Third Place: Philly Transit
  • Honorable Mention: Eureka

First Place: Sign-ify

With his website Sign-ify, Jack Z. aims to educate the general public about deafness and hearing impairment. Hoping to break the communication barrier between the hearing and deaf communities, he utilized machine learning technology to provide an interactive experience where the user can practice fingerspelling ASL letters. By doing so, Jack hopes to foster a more inclusive and understanding society that accommodates those with hearing loss.

“Winning Ctrl+Shift has motivated me to keep pursuing my interest in technology and creating projects that can help those around me. I feel empowered to continue using the knowledge I have gained from participating in Ctrl+Shift to leave an impact on my community.” — Jack Z.

Participating in Ctrl+Shift not only tested Jack’s technical skills, but he also learned that “building a professional website goes way beyond knowing how to program.” From understanding your target audience with personas, to expanding his use of design concepts, Jack’s main takeaway from the experience was the importance of feedback. “I’m [now] unafraid of asking for feedback or criticism for something I create so that I can ensure that it fulfills its purpose,” he said. “This is a little different from my previous mindset where I would focus on what I thought the users would like without receiving any actual feedback.”

Second Place: Javatastic

Hoping to get kids interesting in programming, Daniel T. created a website to teach kids Java. Javatastic houses a 3-dimensional home page, an interactive multi-section lesson, a challenging exercise, and a 20 question quiz. In addition to teaching kids the basics, the website also prepares students for the AP Computer Science A Exam.

While creating Javatastic, Daniel learned new technologies, new skills like UI/UX, and confidence in himself. “Working with Coded By Kids has been a transformative experience, significantly enhancing both my productivity and confidence in my work,” he said. “The program propelled me to strive for excellence, igniting an unwavering motivation to bring my creative visions to life.”

Third Place: Philly Transit

Tens of thousands of riders take public transportation daily, but a lot of them don’t know the history. Using an interactive map, three transit timelines, a gallery, and more, Jason L. and Spencer L. created the website Philly Transit to provide that history. They aimed to share their fascination with the different kinds of tracks, trains, trolleys, abandoned stations, and plans with residents and transit enthusiasts.

Jason’s favorite part of the competition was building the website itself. “It hits close to home because we ride the subway every day to get to school and we wanted more people to learn about the history of Philadelphia transit,” he said. “It was really fun making the website and sharing our hobby with other people.”

Newer to coding, Spencer was excited to join his friend Jason in the competition and develop new skills. “I learned a lot because before I wasn’t very well versed in CSS, HTML, and javascript. So going [to the mentor sessions] really helped me learn.” A lot has changed for Spencer since starting the program. “A new career path has opened [for me]. Originally, I wanted to go to college for some sort of mechanical or civil engineering. But now, there’s this new option…and that’s that’s huge to me.”

Honorable Mention: Eureka

With his website Eureka, Matthew P. aims to recognize, celebrate, and draw inspiration from the greatest minds throughout history. Providing a variety of ways to learn about these figures, the site consists of a home page, a virtual 3D gallery, an interactive scrollable timeline, an exploration by subject page, and a massive library of biographies.

“All the projects that I had done up until this point were just kind of free form and having this competition structure [gives you] a feel for what it’s like in an actual job environment when you have a project due. — Matthew P.

Matthew really appreciated the mentorship opportunities and structure Ctrl+Shift offered. “It gives a unique perspective into the business and management of building a website rather than just the technical side,” he said. “It’s something that I feel has been very unique through this program, that I haven’t gotten by just programming on my own.”

His father, David, appreciates how Coded by Kids allowed Matthew to spotlight his coding talents and prepare for a career in tech. “I’m thrilled that he’s going to do something for his career that he loves and Ctrl+Shift has been a kind of impetus for him to use his skills and make complete projects out of them. So I think it’s great that he’s part of the competition.”

Mentors, Judges, and Volunteers

During Ctrl+Shift, we engaged 15+ volunteers to help mentor students throughout the competition. Whether sharing their expertise during one of the virtual workshops, stopping by the mentoring sessions to give advice and feedback on projects, or judging the final competition, our volunteers made a huge impact on the students.

“I think it’s really fantastic that so many volunteers from different companies, different roles get to come in and talk about different careers in tech,” said Christina Blake from Seer Interactive. “I know when I was their age, there were so many jobs that I didn’t know existed … So I feel really strongly that just the opportunity to get to hear more about what’s out there and what you can do with tech is a really fantastic opportunity for them.” In addition to being a judge, Christina came to the second mentoring session and spoke with the students about wireframing and problem solving. “Getting to see projects from start to finish is really fantastic. [I got] a sneak peek of what they’re working on halfway through and then coming back to the finals, I get to see the full fledged finished project.”

In addition to deciding our winner, the judges are incredibly encouraging and supportive of all the students. “We get to take a look at the websites and evaluate them for functionality, design and provide really good constructive feedback that encourages them to design a little bit better,” said Karolyn Maynard from Comcast. “It’s so important to get to connect with students very early on and give them that confidence and that ability to see themselves in the industry,” added MaiAda Carpano from the startup Croissant.

What’s Next

What’s next for our Ctrl+Shift students? There was a 36% increase in students who identified as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ comfortable with coding post-program and 92% are now interested in a tech and innovation career.

Roshik P., who learned HTML and CSS about a month before the Ctrl+Shift competition, developed more than his technical skills. “I would say my approach to thinking of an idea changed a bit, especially with the addition of learning about personas,” he said. While Tawsif U. fell in love with coding, “I find that I like making websites a lot more, I discovered my passion in that.”

“Since working with Coded By Kids, I’ve been more inclined to think entrepreneurially.” — Jack Z.

Whatever the next step for our students, our judge Karolyn Maynard wants them to keep learning. “If you have aspirations to elevate in tech, continue to be curious, stay really curious. You’re always thinking about how something is built, how it’s designed, how it works. And that curiosity will take you very far.”

“I’m really excited to see where they go from here. Because even just seeing them right now, after a few weeks of work, they’re fantastic.” — CBK Instructor Jesse O.

Special Guest: Jason Kelce

We want to give a big thank you to Philadelphia Eagle Jason Kelce for coming to the Ctrl+Shift competition finals, inspiring our students and continuing to support tech education with the (Be)Philly Foundation!

Support Philly’s Future Tech Leaders

Did you miss the competition finals but still want to support our young coders? You can donate now to fund our work and help support Philly’s future tech leaders.

This year’s Ctrl+Shift coding competition was possible thanks to our lead sponsors Comcast and SEI Investments, as well as Seer Interactive, Comic Relief, and Jornaya.

Interested in sponsoring future programs like these? Contact us by emailing

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