During one of the technology-focused summer program at a middle school, the students had little idea how to start working on a new project using Lego EV3 software, not to mention some of the complicated things involved in programming different sensors. As they advanced in just few days, I could not believe the complex algorithms that had been programmed and intricate mazes that these students autonomously navigated through with their robots. I was glad to see their progress and thought how ahead of their peers these students were in learning technology and challenging themselves outside their comfort zone. It was a déjà vu moment for me as I remembered how I felt during initial few classes at freshman Robotics course. Though I had built and played with Lego models since fourth grade, I did not understand all the engineering and mechanics in the beginning of my freshman class. This inability to comprehend what is going on in class and lack of confidence due to existing stereotypes, are few of the reasons why there are not many minorities and girls in STEM classes. For the students who participate in science and technology programs and enrich learning since elementary grades, the confusion is little to non-existent, and therefore are better prepared for computer programming and technology courses in high schools and colleges.
While mentoring students at Talent identification program in my high school, I remember something my friend Joseph told me. “These kids are doing more in two weeks than what we did in two months in class”. And, that really resonated with me because I realized that technology and programming should not just be offered as a summer camp. It should be built in curriculum as an elective or offered in after-school programs so that students can be more resourceful and think outside their comfort zone. We need to start reaching out to families, communities, schools and tech companies and cultivate and collaborate for a technology learning ecosystem. It would support in and out of classroom activities and learning for all, irrespective of their socio-economic and gender background. This would result in elevating confidence, developing knowledge and sense of identity as well as belonging in technology and computer programming disciplines.