Underrepresented students in STEM are getting a boost from this new education initiative - Technical.ly DC

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Jun. 26, 2020 1:56 pm

Underrepresented students in STEM are getting a boost from this new education initiative

Up to 150 D.C. students can attend a weeklong virtual tech camp for free, thanks to a partnership between iD Tech and Salesforce that stemmed from a Howard University connection.
A student at one of iD Tech’s summer camps in 2019.

A student at one of iD Tech's summer camps in 2019.

(Courtesy photo)

Through a new initiative prompted by a Howard University connection, California-based iD Tech and Salesforce are offering full scholarships to 150 D.C. students from groups underrepresented in STEM who are looking to attend a virtual tech camp this summer.

Founded by mother-daughter duo Kathryn Ingram-Cauchi and Alexa Ingram-Cauchi in 1999, iD Tech promotes STEM education by providing computer tech camps and experiences to children ages 7 through 19. Ylka van Bemmel Reiss, the company’s director of social impact, told Technical.ly that last year, 50,000 students attended programs across 170 locations.

iD Tech has been providing online resources over the past 10 years and launched its Virtual Tech Camps in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With Salesforce, the company is now launching Coding Our Future, an initiative that will support underrepresented students ranging from fifth to 12th grade who want to learn more about STEM. Selected students will use the scholarships to virtually attend iD Tech’s summer programs through Salesforce’s free online learning platform where they can take courses in Java, C++, 3D game design, YouTube animation, Python and machine learning.

“Students will engage in one week of camp and immerse themselves into coding, game development and design,” Reiss said. “Students will also skill up on Trailhead, Salesforce’s platform engaging students. We will also have an assortment of guest speakers, including Dr. Aprille Ericsson, who will share their pathway into tech.” (Ericsson was the first the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard, as well as the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in engineering at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.)

Each day encompasses two hours of instructor-led learning and two hours of self-paced project work. The weeklong programs run from July 27 to Aug. 14. Apps are due by June 30 and require parental approval. These camps normally cost $499.

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This partnership between iD Tech and Salesforce came about after Jon Moore, brand manager for global public sector at Salesforce, sent his nephew to an iD Tech camp hosted at Howard last summer. Since the attendance of the camps at HU were low, the program was ended and students shifted to the iD Tech program hosted at American University. Moore, being an HU alumni himself, wanted to see the program return to the university — and before the pandemic hit, the in-person version was slated to do so this summer.

“We started ideation on what such a program would look like in September of 2019, aligning Salesforce’s major commitment to equity and philanthropy,” Reiss said. “It naturally evolved into a social impact partnership, Coding Our Future, which has a mission to provide life-changing tech experiences to embolden underrepresented minorities to shape the future.”

iD Tech reported that 97% of students who attend its tech camps go on to attend four-year colleges, with 90% of those students pursuing majors in STEM. The pair are also hoping this new initiative helps address the digital divide in the region.

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted students of color, broadening the digital divide,” Reiss said. “Not only will this program introduce some campers to STEM as a potential career path, but will enhance the curiosity of others and provide a world-class educational experience to kids that may not have otherwise had exposure to such opportunities.”

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