Kids in Tech was founded in 2016 in Lowell, Massachusetts to prepare disadvantaged kids with interactive, free after school programs in computers and technology. By 2024, 80% of the top 10 most in-demand STEM jobs in the Greater Lowell area will be in technology – and, these are the some of the top most desired skills for many growing industries across the country. In the past three years, Kids in Tech has offered programs at four different sites serving low-income kids in the Lowell area.
Check out the podcast below!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started Kids in Tech.
I’m a graduate of Clark University and Lesley University. I got my bachelor’s at Clark and Masters of Education at Lesley. I was a former teacher, and I did policy work and consulting in the non-profit public sector around education and youth development.
I started Kids in Tech in Lowell, MA, because Lowell is becoming a tech hub. Biotech firms and more tech companies are moving into the city. Around 2015, I was looking around and wondering how we can get more kids introduced into computer science, computer literacy, and computational thinking skills. There’s all this growing innovation economy happening in their backyard and wondering how can we make better connections earlier for the kids.
I spent some time gathering information and talking to the community. Developing a program and asking young people for feedback and then writing up a curriculum for Kids in Tech. Kids in Tech was incorporated in July of 2016, and we launched our first program that year. We served about 66 kids during our pilot year, and we’ve been growing ever since. We also got our 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
We are now poised to expand our tech programming across Greater Lowell and to our neighboring cities. With the help of our community, partners, and people like you. We can continue to expand our programs and also look for high need communities within Massachusetts and help them build their technology sector pipeline by increasing interest in young kids.
It’s an exciting time to be in Lowell, and a lot is going on right now. Kids in Tech is just one of the key community partners that are thinking about the tech sector. We use that to drive positive change in people. For kids to be able to participate in the 21st-century innovation economy, they have to develop technical skills at a young age.
What is your 2020 vision for Kids in Tech? What are your plans for growth?
2020 will be a big year for Kids in Tech, and we’ve been around for about three years now. Our goal is to serve more kids in the Greater Lowell area. Ideally, our plan for growth is to expand to high need communities in Massachusetts that lack resources. We want to partner up with organizations like ours to ensure that the young kids get access to high-quality computer science, computer literacy, and computational thinking programs after-school.
One day we’ll have a national profile, but our goal is to continue to help more kids and make a difference on a larger scale. By putting kids at the forefront and making sure that kids, especially those from low-income backgrounds, have access to high-quality education, is our main priority.
Some of the programs you have done for the kids are blogging, robotics, and fashion tech. Tell us more about what the program entails.
Our after-school tech club program has excellent instructors to teach topics such as blogging, robotics, fashion tech, and artificial intelligence. We get volunteers that are mostly corporate STEM professionals to come into the classrooms. The kids are going on field trips to local tech companies to learn about the trends and learn more about what’s going on.
The kids went to the UMASS Lowell Fabric Discovery Center and the Fashion Makerspace. In the Fashion Makerspace, the kids learned about wearable Tech and made their glow in the dark gloves. Guest speakers such as Richard P. Howe Jr., Middlesex North Registry of Deeds, to talk about the city of Lowell, and the evolution of technology going back to the earliest days of the city. iRobot and MITRE have come in and done specialized workshops for the kids.
They have hands-on learning projects throughout the school year and summer. We’re also making sure there is college to career connections by going on field trips and learning about industry trends. We are having guest speakers come to talk to the kids about their career paths and being role models for the kids.
You’re passionate about education and being a past educator yourself, what way can schools change their approach to teaching STEM/STEAM education?
We’re an after-school program, and it’s really about complementing what goes on during the school day. Our focus is making sure how we’re reinforcing the lessons that these kids are learning in schools can be translated to our after-school program. With teaching, there is a lot of test-taking that goes on, and our after-school program provides a more creative approach to education. For the end-of-the-year showcase, the kids are showing us what they learned in their own words. Hands-on learning is one of the great ways of teaching STEM/STEAM education.
National or state policy dictates what the kids are learning during the school day. But, I think the kids need more time in the day teaching STEM concepts. That’s where we come in and partner up with school districts and teach Tech to kids. We help complement those gaps through after-school programs. Kids spend 80% of their time outside of school and spend only 20% in school. That’s why we’re focused on after-school because we know the kids spend the majority of the time outside of school.
What are your best Kids in Tech highlights for 2019?
There are so many stories, and I can spend hours and hours talking about the best highlights for the year. One of my best highlights was seeing a 9-year-old girl named Frances, and her friend Alyssa was learning about computer engineering. At first, they didn’t want to do the tech club, and then they started building their computers. They like math and science, but computer engineering is very new to them. Kids can be a little bit skeptical when they are learning something new. Seeing these girls come back week after week and doing different activities is fantastic. They’re so engaged, and it shows the power of girls in Tech.
There is a gender disparity in Tech, and we can start to close the gap there too. For girls, they think that Tech is not cool. Then all of a sudden, Tech is cool. By having the girls do fun and engaging projects, it changes their perspective of Tech. Another highlight is going on field trips and learning about the different tech companies in the Greater Lowell area. The kids realize that there are such innovative companies in their backyard. It’s always refreshing to see the kid’s facial expressions when they step into companies and talk to scientists, technologists, and engineers. The kids are learning and engaged, and we’re glad the kids are learning the concepts.
What’s your favorite memory of technology as a kid?
My favorite memory of technology as a kid was when my father brought home a Gateway 2000 PC and told my sisters and me that it was “the future.” With the right tools like a computer, you’re able to learn so much about Tech. Technology has evolved so quickly, from humongous PCs to smartphones. In the age of AI, it is interesting to see how these different technologies can play out.
Do you have any words of wisdom that you want to give out to the STEAM Boston community?
Keep trying and keep going. We need more people in the STEAM fields, and we need you to stay there. We need more Kids in Tech to see more inclusive and diverse leadership within the same community. We need you to stay in there and share your genius ideas around the world.
How can college students and working professionals get involved with Kids in Tech?
We’re always looking for more guest speakers. If you want to tell the kids your story, that is a great way to volunteer with us. More intensive volunteer opportunities are that you can come to the after-school program once or twice a week and make sure the kids are on tasks. Volunteers can hold field-trips at their companies too. If you want to get involved, there is a contact us page on our website where you can get in touch and get situated. You can email us at [email protected], and a staff member or I will respond to your message and go more in-depth about the volunteer activities.
Any shoutouts to mentors, educators, friends, and family?
My parents and mentors. The board of directors, our board of advisors, who make Kids in Tech, happen every day. I’ll shout out to all of the board members and tell all of our advisors that they’re fantastic and fabulous. Shout out to my friends for encouraging me to start Kids in Tech. If you’re listening to the podcast, you know who you are. I’ve learned so much along the journey, and thanks to those that inspired me.
Interested in volunteering for Kids in Tech? Check out below!
If you are a parent, school district, youth development professional, or school administrator that would like to bring our after-school tech club program to your organization or school, please reach out to us at [email protected] or fill out this form https://kidsintech.org/contact-kids-in-tech/
If you are looking for a unique and meaningful volunteer opportunity, consider volunteering as an After School Tech Club coordinator or teacher or as a Career Speaker. You can make a difference in kids’ lives! Learn more.