It’s a Guinness World Record attempt two years and one global pandemic in the making. The Michigan Accelerate Computer Science (MACS) collaborative is spearheading a bid to set the record for “Most Users to Take an Online Computer Programming Lesson Within 24 Hours” — and they’re looking for help.
The goal is to have 20,000 individuals take a virtual programming class between 8 a.m. Friday, Dec. 11, and 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. Anyone ages 6-60 can sign up, and no prior experience is required.
According to Thanh Tran, executive director for the Detroit-based nonprofit Accelerate4KIDS, the initiative will take place during Computer Science Education Week and is meant to promote STEM education while uplifting the community.
“In 10 years, when people want to learn about how Michiganders lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic downturn, civil unrest and statewide virtual schooling and working, they’ll be able to say they succeeded by working together,” Tran says.
On the Back End
The quest for the record began in March 2019, when Tran floated the idea of breaking the Guinness World Record for largest live youth hackathon. Joshua Edmonds, director of digital inclusion for the city of Detroit, joined the bid, but it was put on hold due to snags in getting enough laptops in the hands of local students.
In January 2020, Tran met with Selam Ghirmai, director of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, to plan the annual “Coding for Kids” at Little Caesars Arena. Set for May 28, the event promotes computer science educational resources, like Google’s free CS First curriculum. It was canceled due to COVID-19, so Tran focused his energy on another goal.
While his parent company, AccelerateKID, based in Wixom, helped front-line workers by 3D printing face mask frames, Tran reached out to Brittany Carpenter, an account executive for Guinness World Records North America based in New York.
The plan for the current record attempt was set into motion.
“Because of the pandemic, no one’s in school, and we thought, why don’t we just do it? Why don’t we see if we can break the record?” says Tran, who also serves as a board member for the Oakland Schools Education Foundation. “With virtual technology, it’s doable.”
A Bug in the System
The pandemic has helped to make the record attainable, Tran says, because students across the state now have Google Chromebooks and internet access, and the record can be broken remotely. However, organizers soon discovered a major bug in the system.
Just two weeks before the registration deadline of Dec. 7, they were informed another entity was going after the same record around the same time. Tran suspects it’s an international company with deep pockets and plenty of resources.
“We were originally targeting 5,000 people for this attempt. There was no one else in this category,” Tran says. “As of last week, International made it clear to us that someone else is also attempting. They are veterans of world record challenges, and they are anticipating 15,000 to 20,000 people. This has now changed our whole strategy.”
Undeterred, organizers are ramping up last-minute efforts to recruit participants anywhere and everywhere.
“It started out Detroit vs. everybody. Then it became the Michigan Department of Education vs. everybody. Now it’s the U.S. vs. everybody,” Tran says.
Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist is helping to spread the word and will serve as honorary guest at the virtual kickoff event at 8 a.m. Dec. 11. Congresswoman Haley Stevens (D-11th District) has endorsed the endeavor as well. More than 100 volunteers have signed up to assist.
Teachers are asked to consider incorporating the world record attempt into their curriculum.
Individuals are being encouraged to tell family, friends, co-workers — anyone with an interest in STEM and the desire to be part of something “officially amazing.”
Registration takes just a minute and is completely free. Participants must engage in the online lesson for a minimum of 30 minutes and complete it within the designated 24-hour period in order to count toward the win.
A lesson planning guide is available for teachers at MiAccelerateCS.com.
If the attempt is successful, participants will be able to purchase an official certificate from Guinness World Records.
Tran says he believes the attempt will show that who we are is defined by how we handle situations — bad and good.
“In 10 years, I hope Michiganders will look back and feel proud that they helped break a Guinness World Record,” he says, “to overcome the pandemic, promote unity and increase access and opportunities in computer science education for everyone.”
Join the Guinness World Record Attempt:
What: Most users to complete an online computer programming lesson within 24 hours
When: Fri., Dec. 11, to Sat., Dec. 12, 8 a.m. to 8 a.m.
To register: Click here to register by Monday, Dec. 7, or visit MiAccelerateCS.com for more information.
Sponsors include: (Silver) Oakland County, Oakland Schools Education Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Kerr Russell; (Bronze) Michigan Department of Education