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Youth Resource Roundup: 12+ programs to help Philly students break into STEM

From weekend workshops to coding camps, young people have a number of ways to learn more about tech and careers of the future through these local orgs and institutions.

University City Science Center's FirstHand program. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of Youth Building the Future Month of Technical.ly's editorial calendar. This month’s theme is underwritten by Verizon 5G. This story was independently reported and not reviewed by Verizon.

Editor's note: Programs will be added to this list periodically.
Philly is increasingly becoming known as a tech hub on the international stage. How can the city’s next generation maintain its reputation for innovation, and benefit from the often high-paying careers than come with it?

This September, Technical.ly is focusing extra reporting on Youth Building the Future, including the programs and student initiatives that can answer that question.

Below is a list of resources available for those looking to get an early start in STEM, at both the grade school and high school levels. Know of any we missed? Let us know at philly@technical.ly.

Blended Learning Initiative

This partnership between Steppingstone Scholars, CS4 Philly and Penn Engineering provides students from grades six through 12 with free computer science programming, including robotics and coding, across virtual, hybrid and in-person formats. Programming cycles during the summer, fall and spring and students are grouped together by level of experience.

Coded by Kids

This local nonprofit for K-12 students aims to fight inequality with tech education and competitions through schools and community centers. Its free, virtual programming teaches software development, digital design, computer science and entrepreneurship. This fall, CbK is launching the Innovation League, a competition-driven skills development series for 100 Philly students ages 12 to 18. Apps close Friday, Sept. 24.

Two students at a Coded by Kids event. (Courtesy photo)


This Philly-founded, national-facing nonprofit offers workshops, summer camps and design events for girls. (Check out how the org is handling virtual instruction during the pandemic.) The mostly free programming happens after school, with weekly camps plus weekend workshops, and teaches the basics of coding, web design, game design and the like.


Camden-based Hopeworks helps young people between the ages of 17 and 26 break cycles of poverty and violence by learning coding and tech skills that will enable them to pursue sustainable careers in tech. Programming is held year round.

In the Hopeworks tech training center. (Courtesy photo)

Philadelphia Robotics Coalition

This orgs works to support youth interest in robotics and STEM careers through collaborations with schools in the School District of Philadelphia. Students at local public schools receive mentorship and support from professionals in STEM-related fields. Programming will happen alongside the school district’s calendar year.

Urban Technology Project

A collaboration between the Philly school district and Communities In Schools of Philadelphia, Inc., UTP offers young people directly applicable professional development for entry-level IT careers. Its AmeriCorps Digital Service Fellows is a pre-apprenticeship program for recent high school grads ages 17 to 24.


FirstHand is a program from the University City Science Center designed to provide lab-based STEM education to young people of all backgrounds. A goal: Create a more equitable tech ecosystem. The free, year-round program offers middle and high school students mentorship, career exposure and hands-on training.

Challenger Center

This organization, which announced plans to launch at Montgomery County Community College earlier this year, allows school-age students to learn more about tech through hands-on workshops. Programming will begin this fall with the goal of reaching 7,000 students in its first year.

Franklin Institute STEM Scholars

Students in grades nine through 12 with an interest in STEM topics can participate in this program dedicated to helping students from underrepresented backgrounds go to college and pursue STEM careers. The students meet weekly at the Franklin Institute throughout their school year and from Monday through Thursday during the summer break. Students are are encouraged to apply in late September or early October before the mid-December deadline.

Drexel Young Dragons

Drexel Young Dragons is a free, four-week program for middle school students living in West Philly’s Opportunity Zone. Students meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Drexel University during the summer, this year via Minecraft. The deadline for applications is usually early June.

Physics Wonder Girls Camp

This Exelon-backed summer camp is held at the University of the Sciences and designed for local middle school girls with an interest in physics. Participants are selected through a competitive process during which their science grades, recommendations and essay are all assessed. Students are then grouped into cohorts and work with mentors leading up to the Girls’ Physics Showcase Event, where they can share their projects. 2021 learning topics included solar energy, nanotechnology and wind energy.


This West Park Cultural Center program for girls of color ages 13 through 18 combines an hour of dance training followed by an hour of coding classes, a combo that brings to life the STEAM acronym — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. (Bonus read: why coding is like ballet.) The program meets on Saturdays from October through June and costs $100 per participant, with scholarships available.

Philly CoderDojo

Philly Coder Dojo is co-located in the Philly and New England region and hosts free programming for its “ninjas” remotely via Zoom. Students ages 7 through 17 can learn coding, website and app development and more. The next Dojo sessions will run from this Saturday, Sept. 25, through August 2022.

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Coded by Kids / Drexel University / Franklin Institute / Hopeworks / TechGirlz / University City Science Center / Urban Technology Project
Series: Youth Building the Future Month 2021

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