It’s Not You, It’s Systemic: High Poverty and High Tech Robotics

Educational stakeholders are in the awesome position of being able to reevaluate decades-old ‘best’ teaching practices to see if they are culturally and currently relevant.

To break down centuries-old system barriers, we have to have these conversations. By holding back segments of our populations we’ve only hurt ourselves. Given the impact of the global pandemic on our world, it is up to us to pursue the educational growth of our underserved students.

Conversations Around Coding

As we analyze what is working and what still needs more work, it’s time to bring up the conversation around the availability of STEM education and curricula offered in all of our schools. Learning to code during the K-12 school years is paramount for our student’s social, emotional, educational, and economic learning. Thanks to technology access, learning to code is more accessible than ever before.

Programs that teach kids coding in K-12 pave the way for students to see themselves in STEM leadership positions. Coding teaches skills that enhance creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking: the cornerstone concepts behind the digital world in which our students are coming of age.

The positive impacts of robotics, coding and overall STEM education are well known, so it should be no surprise that STEM education radically impacts the life trajectory of our underserved populations.

Underserved Populations

For the purpose of this piece, the term “underserved” is referring to people that are underrepresented in STEM professions. This means their voices are not solicited nor heard. STEM programs for kids can allow individuals with disabilities, females, immigrant populations, the homeless or displaced, LGBTQ+ populations, and certain racial and ethnic groups to see themselves as vital innovators of the STEM field.

As educators, we have to lift all voices to the decision level that makes up the future of STEM. To do this, underserved populations must have access to STEM programs that include coding and robotic learning opportunities. Schools have many options available right now due to the adoption of virtual learning models. In addition, quality STEM experiences are now available online. Are you a teacher at a Title I school interested in exploring a virtual robotics competition in your school? Funding is available!

How we Change Trajectories

To encourage the next generation of coders we have to develop their computational thinking and problem-solving skills. How? With coding and robotics in the classroom. All students benefit from programs specializing in coding for kids, such as gamified coding and robotic instruction. Competitions and classroom experiences provide real-world experience in a way that keeps kids coming back to learn more.

Because of the current hiring climate for graduates of Computer Science and Engineering fields under-resourced communities stand to gain opportunities. PwC, a global network of firms specializing in supporting businesses, found that by 2021, 69% of U.S. executives will seek out candidates with data science and analytics skills. In order to meet those needs, we have to “enable all students to become data literate and open more routes to data science,” in order to meet those needs (Gallup & BHEF 2016).

When you invest in STEM opportunities, underserved students are set up to become our innovative leaders in the fields of manufacturing, healthcare applications, transportation, communication, mechanical engineering, and computer programming. STEM education focuses on how to approach complex problems, break down the challenges into small pieces and approach resolving them in a logical manner – critical skills for any career path. This prepares our students for our digital future.

Agency in Underserved Communities

Tara Chklovski, founder and CEO of Technovation explores further, “we can help underserved communities feel a greater sense of agency in their lives while building a diverse workforce with a lifelong learning mindset.” To be hired and heard our students have to be prepared with these skills. This not only changes their trajectories but society’s as well.

To demonstrate the future of a career in STEM, we have to connect our students to leading voices from around the world. Those voices have to be coming from people who look like them. Providing all students access to STEM activities throughout their K-12 careers sets them up for success.

What’s Next?

Just because something is there doesn’t mean students want to participate. Truly accessible STEM programming means fun and exciting. Only then will it gain traction and student support, especially for our under-served communities.

This year we survey the wreckage left behind by the pandemic. To heal, we have to address the cracks in our infrastructure it exposed. To move forward better we must rally together. By bringing coding and robotic STEM opportunities into our underserved communities, we change their options and our future. Underserved students that receive quality STEM education are more likely to pursue STEM fields and become our strongest innovators. Can you imagine the voices we have left behind because they weren’t packaged in the “right” person? We can’t afford to overlook new ideas. We can’t afford to ignore the voices clamoring for change.