Paving the way for STEM education
It’s no secret that today's kids are tomorrow's innovators, discoverers, leaders and problem-solvers. With the world becoming an increasingly complex place, it’s important for young kids to grasp STEM concepts to prepare themselves to participate in the future workforce and to understand how technology works.
Sadly, fewer than half of all schools teach computer science (and don’t expect to see changes anytime soon.) A lack of access hurts our economy and creates major inequities in education, particularly for those groups that are traditionally underrepresented in computer science and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Developing critical thinking skills is an important part of growing up. Kids must learn how to evaluate information and figure out how to use it. STEM learning helps children to get better at using the technology that powers the world, which is particularly useful for preparing them for their adult lives.
But roots aren’t enough to achieve incremental growth. You also have to plant seeds. Capital One is one organization helping to take on this big task. This is not your average science class. The Capital One Coders program is a 10-week crash course that puts real industry leaders in the room with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The program started in 2014 as part of Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, and aims to help both young students gain the tools and knowledge needed to excel in all things tech. Creating a space of equality and learning, Capital One is working to support young kids develop into grown leaders who rule the world.
Over the past 10 weeks, 85 students from four Northern Virginia middle schools participated in the Capital One Coders program and worked in teams to create apps with the help of MIT University’s App Inventor 2. The excitement of the students on the night of the graduation ceremony earlier this month was only matched by the excitement of their parents to see the apps that they had created. At the beginning of the event, parents and judges spent over a half an hour walking around learning about the students’ apps. The scene in northern Virginia was no different than the scene at eight Coders graduations that have taken place across the country in the month of December.
Organizations committed to helping close the looming skills gap will ultimately support the next generation of STEM leaders and ensure they have the opportunity to succeed. The mission of the program is to increase confidence and skills through hands-on learning, interactive experiences, and mentorship.
This is a program I know I could have used when I was younger. My passion for tech? Curiosity. For a long time, I felt a void in mentorship and couldn’t see anyone else in the field I was able to look up to or learn from. Coding and STEM was not an area I was exposed to until my mid-twenties. Still, I never doubted myself. This is something I credit to lessons taught by my parents and passionate teachers from a young age. With TechSesh I’m working to increase and expand STEM, improve outreach to minority communities and build strategic partnerships that will help set up students to become the tech makers and entrepreneurs of the future.
Technology is part of our culture now, so if today’s youth can’t speak its language, how will they become future leaders? Studies show that today’s students have a declining interest in STEM careers. Many don’t choose to pursue them because they don’t know what a computer scientist actually does or they simply haven't seen anyone be one. You can’t be what you can’t see.
Technology is changing so fast, blink an eye and you’ll likely miss it. The importance of programs like Coders can’t be understated. Programs that expose students to STEM not only gives kids valuable tools for their future but also inspires them to believe that they are capable of building anything.
The blog was in partnership with Capital One