The future of work is hybrid. But is it accessible?

Beyond the Microscope Blog Post | April 29, 2021

By Michaela Goss, Communications Volunteer

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced all schools and businesses to move to remote operations, if they were able. One year later, as vaccines roll out, schools and businesses are attempting to figure out life after the pandemic.

Many businesses have already pledged to remain remote for good, while many schools will return to fully in-person operations as soon as possible. A new model many workplaces may turn to is hybrid, where staff will be part-time in-person and part-time remote. For many workers, this approach may seem ideal: They get to maintain the flexibility of remote working, yet they can also go into offices if they so choose. But is this accessible for everyone?

The ability to work from home seems inherently accessible. The worker wouldn’t have a commute, and, therefore, any company could hire an employee regardless of where they live. However, this idea assumes that everyone has internet and broadband connectivity at home, which is not the case. Rural and low-income urban communities, in particular, are more likely to lack internet access at home.

The main issue with this inaccessibility is that people in homes without internet connections would be fully unable to work, learn, or both from home, so they could potentially lose a source of income or fall behind in school. This is what is commonly referred to as the digital divide, or the gap between those with the benefits of technology and the internet and those without.

Many rural and low-income people and families are inherently disadvantaged by the digital divide. However, some cities, including Philadelphia, are partnering with internet service providers to provide connectivity into the homes of low-income students and their families.

The digital divide also strikes in a more tangible form, as well. Remote workers and students can’t do their work without devices like computers or tablets, so some organizations have also donated Chromebooks to low-income students, and some school districts are providing Chromebooks, as well.

The pandemic still leaves many technology-related questions unanswered, though. Are free internet access and gifted devices acting as band aids for the more detrimental issues the digital divide presents? Will Philadelphia and other cities still provide internet access to those low-income households after students can return to school in-person? Will students get to keep the devices they’ve been gifted by organizations? Or will the world return to the divided normal it was back in early 2020 and before?

In a more optimistic angle, maybe the world won’t return to the pre-COVID normal. Maybe these students will remember the impact of the pandemic and the exacerbation of the digital  divide it caused, and will want to make a difference. Instead of a return to what was normal, the world could enter a brighter digital age, where more students decide to enter technology fields in order to innovate connectivity globally.

Maybe more students will feel excited, educated, and empowered to enter careers in technology, just as Kids In Tech hopes they will.

The State of STEAM Education

Beyond the Microscope Blog Post | April 14, 2021

by Aimee Khan, Communications Volunteer

I went to school in the 90s. Back then, children of all races and genders were encouraged to pursue mathematics and science as well as interdisciplinary subjects like history and English. A well-rounded education is necessary in being able to decide a path in college and beyond. I find that the state of a student’s education improves with inspiring teachers who encourage them to pursue their dreams, goals, and passions. Schools may also provide resources in the form of comprehensive libraries and internet access, well-reviewed curriculums, and superior after school programs.

The opportunities present for college students today provide an interactive ability for them to rise beyond what they thought they were capable of. As an alumni mentor, I heard from a university student about the use of 3D printers to perform bioengineering experiments and accessible computational courses to further enhance scientific understanding and ability. There is also an increased usage of tablets to convert handwritten notes to typed text, changing the face of notetaking and multimedia resources. Even though much has changed since I was a student, when it comes to education, inspiration is key. Those experiences light up the mind of a student who would have otherwise not known or not discovered their own potential or interest in the subject matter and then they seek a role models to aspire to.

Firstly, students must have the opportunity to be exposed to many different scientific concepts and these topics should be presenting in a tangible way. This enables the student to decide if this is the path to pursue in the future regardless of any stereotypes present based on the student’s race or gender. Usually, self-belief overcomes biased thinking especially regarding skill or merit. Tune into the Beyond the Microscope Webinar series to learn about The State of STEAM Education on April 28, 2021 and hear from our guest speakers.

How does Massachusetts approach STEM education?

Beyond the Microscope Blog Post | March 4, 2021

By Michaela Goss

Massachusetts aims to fulfill two key goals for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education: ensure students can actively engage in data analysis and ensure they can relate what they learn in the classroom to life outside the classroom.

The Massachusetts Department of Education’s (DOE’s) website lays out the state’s standards-based academic vision for what students learn in school. It also discusses how the state’s focus on STEM education derives from the role of Massachusetts as a growing hub for STEM careers – particularly, in technology and engineering. Massachusetts appears ready to build a pipeline of students from the state’s schools into full-fledged STEM careers after graduation.

The foundation for this pipeline starts in elementary education. In elementary schools, the goal is to spark interest in STEM that can lead to a lifelong love of the subjects and a future STEM career, which have some of the highest paying entry level positions. Schools rise to meet this goal by involving students in content-based learning, as well as applied learning.

Applied learning enables students to apply concepts they learn in the classroom to projects or situations either relevant to their lives or to help them visualize the concepts they are taught. Videos on the DOE’s website showcase students building, working together to complete science experiments and learning math as it applies to real-world issues – rather than simply numbers on a page.

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How the Arts Can Help Redesign STEM Curriculums

Beyond the Microscope Blog Post | February 17, 2021

By Michaela Goss, Communications Volunteer

School science projects are rarely complete without a giant poster board, colorful lettering and pictures to help describe the project. Technical engineers who build software and websites can’t fully complete their jobs if they can’t picture how the end product will look and how the designs must come across.

The innate logic of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes and projects makes the acronym as a whole seem almost stiff – strictly logical, with formulaic answers and solutions and little room for much else. This, however, is not a full picture of STEM, as one critical element undercuts the field and is often overlooked: art.

This isn’t to say solving mathematical equations and painting go hand-in-hand. Instead, think of the scientific method. This starts with a question, which leads to research and a hypothesis. The mere act of developing that question and formulating a hypothesis based on known facts requires creativity. That creativity could be the spark many young students need to develop an interest in STEM.

Kids are known for having big imaginations, so the idea of a formal STEM education may lack pizzaz or a hook to draw them in. However, when they learn how mixing different chemicals can create a rainbow of beakers, or how to create a Punnett square and draw what that person would look like, or how to create a website, their imaginations are fed and could kindle a lifelong interest in STEAM.

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Fluorescence @home: STEM Explorations That GLOW!

Beyond the Microscope Blog Post | February 11, 2021

Fluorescence is a tool used widely in the sciences and beyond. But it is also a fascinating phenomenon in its own right. Use the handheld P51™ fluorescence viewer to explore the world of fluorescence right at home!

Learn more about this topic in our upcoming Beyond the Microscope event “Fluorescence @home: STEM Explorations That GLOW!” on March 17.

Register here:

#gobeyondthemicroscope

KIDS IN TECH PRESENTS ‘BEYOND THE MICROSCOPE: BUILDING A PATHWAY FOR DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND BELONGING IN STEAM’

Beyond the Microscope Press Release | January 27, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LOWELL, MASS. – Kids in Tech, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children gain critical skills and confidence in STEM fields, will present the first webinar in its “Beyond The Microscope” webinar series on Monday, Feb. 15.

Kids in Tech is proud to present “Beyond the Microscope: Building a Pathway for Diversity, Equity and Belonging in STEAM,” which will be held on Zoom at 12 p.m. EST. This free, virtual and kid-friendly event will feature renowned friends of Kids in Tech, who will discuss ways the organization is leading the charge in helping children from all backgrounds gain more education and experience in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – or STEAM – fields.

“It’s no surprise that technology skills will dominate the job market in the future, but there is a growing dearth of Americans to fill STEAM jobs,” said Board Chair Gregory Franks. “There is an untapped well of tech talent in our cities, and we owe it to ourselves and the children to expose them to all the possibilities in STEAM.”

Based in Lowell, Mass., Kids In Tech is in the center of a diverse city, and around 92% of the actual kids of Kids in Tech are people of color. As Boston and Lowell increasingly transform into hubs of the tech industry, kids developing technological skills now will be better off getting jobs in science or technology fields in the future. This not only sets the kids of Kids in Tech on a path to success, but sets the technology industry on a path to become more diverse and inclusive.

“People of color, especially women, are heavily underrepresented in STEAM fields,” said Olu Ibrahim, founder and CEO of Kids in Tech. “Yet, through afterschool programming, Kids in Tech has helped create a pipeline of diverse students to engage in STEAM, gaining skills and practical knowledge to become future leaders in tech and science.”

“Beyond the Microscope: Building a Pathway for Diversity, Equity and Belonging in STEAM” is the first in a four-part webinar series Kids in Tech will host through Spring 2021 and is dedicated to various STEAM causes in which the organization believes.

To sign up for this event on Feb. 15 at 12 p.m. EST, please head to the Zoom webinar registration.

Kids in Tech is a nonprofit organization creating the next generation of tech-savvy leaders through free, interactive and after-school computer science and literacy programs.


Building a Pathway for Diversity, Equity and Belonging in STEAM

Beyond the Microscope Blog Post | January 21, 2021

by Aimee Khan, Communications Volunteer

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education and career paths are often overlooked by people of color and women due to a lack of interest or belief in themselves. Without enough immersion and education opportunities, these minorities could forego the discovery of a lifelong passion. That is why Kids in Tech provides the knowledge and resources for these students to excel in a STEAM domain of their choosing and become future leaders in tech and science.

In 2009 according to a survey (Abiola A. Farinde, 2012), only 9.7% female and 14.9% black undergraduate students graduated with a STEM major. We expect today, more than a decade later, those statistics have risen, in part due to work from outreach organizations and afterschool programming.

As a woman in tech, I feel strongly about the inclusion of all races and backgrounds in STEAM education and enrichment. I experienced an undergraduate education in Chemical Engineering from UMass Amherst and was a member of the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) where I tutored many underrepresented minorities trying to earn an engineering degree. I found that what they most struggled with was confidence. They would know the answer but were too afraid to make the assertion that they were right. That caused them to stumble and doubt themselves. I believe that culture enforces those stereotypes that get into our subconscious mind, making us feel inferior or lesser if we are not like the majority. Therefore, not only are programs that encourage students to be exposed to STEAM topics useful, they ease them into having a strong intuition about these topics so they can develop the confidence they need to succeed.

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Path to diversity in STEM starts with education, opportunity

Beyond the Microscope | January 6, 2021

By Michaela Goss, Communications Volunteer

Just under half of K-12 schools nationwide have dedicated computer science curriculums, and that amount shrinks further for low-income students and students of color.

This is true for the majority of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, too, as students from marginalized backgrounds are less likely to have dedicated STEM curriculum or advanced placement STEM courses available to them. According to the Kapor Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to making the field of technology more diverse, students from marginalized communities are offered advanced STEM courses at a rate 12 times lower than students in more affluent schools.

Simply having the opportunity to take an advanced computer science course increases the likelihood of students entering a computer science career or studying computer science should they attend higher education, according to the Kapor Center. Students need the opportunity to see themselves in STEM roles in order to pursue those career paths, and the lack of that opportunity demonstrates an unfortunately common obstacle in low-income schools.

Read More > “Path to diversity in STEM starts with education, opportunity”