STEMLY teaches kids that technology is theirs for the taking - DC


Jun. 30, 2015 7:33 am

STEMLY teaches kids that technology is theirs for the taking

Devon Rollins, his brother Duane and their friend Phillip Stephen realized that their STEM education was about far more than classroom learning. Now they want to teach that lesson to kids in the District.

Brothers Devon, left, and Duane Rollins, two of the three cofounders of STEMLY.

(Courtesy photo)

Devon Rollins is a cybersecurity expert with two computer science degrees and a master’s from Carnegie Mellon under his belt.

But his interest in technology was not originally stoked by any type of formal education. And now he’s trying to pass that on, with STEMLY.

Growing up in Suffolk, Va., “a tech desert,” by his reckoning, he was awed by computers very early on.

“I was pretty enamored by the fact that my mother could type faster than I could read,” he said. “I was transfixed [by] the representation of input and output.”

"You don't necessarily have to have a degree in computer science to build web applications. That's just not required."
Devon Rollins, STEMLY

He spent lots of time fiddling with the family computer. He collected AOL CDs to get more internet minutes, combed through the health files for troubleshooting, and was an early adopter of AIM.

“Education for me was never confined into a classroom,” Rollins said.

Eventually, he made his way into the field of cybersecurity, and currently works as a cyber-economics consultant at Ernst & Young.

His brother Duane Rollins, studied engineering and became a UX designer who once taught evening courses at General Assembly.

With their friend Phillip Stephen, they form the Holy Trinity of the tech industry.

“Phil’s a dev ops engineer, so he’s a builder,” said Rollins. “I’m in cybersecurity, so I’m a breaker.” And his brother Duane — he’s the designer.

“We thought about our own individual places that we occupy in STEM,” said Devon — and how others could “build their own pathway to prosperity.”

That’s where STEMLY comes in.

Launched last December, the nonprofit seeks to unite the groups working to help students in the District see “the world through a STEM lens.”


Rollins wants STEMLY to become a “belly button for people who create STEM-related content” targeted at under-served students.

The organizations started out by creating a “culturally relevant,” “intensive digital curriculum” for the Washington Leadership Academy, he said.

The technically-focused charter school was approved last month by the D.C. Public Charter School Board.

What Rollins wants every child to understand is that “you don’t necessarily have to have a degree in computer science to build web applications,” he said. “That’s just not required.”

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