Though the high tech sector has made strides in building a diverse workforce, African Americans, Hispanics, and women remain underrepresented.* In response to this issue, a nonprofit organization in Bellevue, Washington, is inviting more young people to learn programming skills. Founded in 2009, SRND (formerly StudentRND) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the participation of diverse and underrepresented groups in Computer Science (CS) studies. They create fun experiences that get primarily high schoolers as well as college undergrads excited about coding.
Their nationwide, networked CodeDay app- and game-building event and other programs have empowered over 25,000 new programmers in nearly 50 cities across the U.S. and Canada. One of its more popular activities is CodeCup, a cybersecurity challenge designed to get high school and college students excited about CS.
“It's live, all at the same time, and we have several thousand students across North America who participate,” says Tyler Menezes, SRND executive director. The students might be anywhere from Boca Raton to Minneapolis or Boston to San Francisco. “We were using open-source software, which was really made for a few dozen people connecting to it. And we were trying to connect several thousand people to it simultaneously.”
When their live stream crashed only minutes into their CodeCup event in November 2018, SRND knew they needed a new solution for hosting thousands of students in multiple locations simultaneously.
To solve their scaling problem, SRND could either develop something in-house or find a more powerful platform. No matter what, they needed a comprehensive solution that could instantly scale up for one hour a few times a year during their CodeDay and CodeCup events, and then scale back down. “One season when we did a CodeDay, there were so many people who wanted to participate that basically the entire server just rolled up and died,” Menezes explains.