Volunteers teach local underserved students about STEAM during the STEAM:CODERS special Connect Week events for kids.

STEAM:CODERS teaches us that Opportunity + Imagination = Innovation

We’re huge fans of fellow Innovate Pasadena board member and STEAM:CODERS founder Raymond Ealy. He’s on a mission to get underserved and underrepresented local students comfortable with technology — and he’s been on a roll, reaching more than 1200 kids in grades 5–12 since 2014. We recently caught up with Raymond to talk about his special Connect Week for Kids, the future for local youth programs, and how our community members can get involved in this important effort.

You put together such an ambitious series of events during Connect Week! Can you give us the details?

STEAM:CODERS is always looking for ways to reach more students, in an effort to connect them with opportunities and resources, foster excitement for STEAM activities and grow the pipeline of students interested in STEAM-related careers. During Connect Week, STEAM:CODERS held 12 events in 7 days. Venues included the Apple Store (Pasadena and Rancho Cucamonga), Supplyframe DesignLab, Neon Retro Arcade and the iPic Theater. We served 175 students, from 22 different schools in the Pasadena Unified School District and beyond.

STEAM:CODERS and Barnabus Robotics volunteers work with kids at Supplyframe DesignLab.

That was an enormous undertaking — how did it work out?

When we embarked upon this journey, we knew it would be very daunting — putting on multiple events per day, with 4 events happening simultaneously on one day. However, when all was said and done, the students enjoyed each and every event. From the moment of our very first event, we could feel the excitement building for the remaining events. We were thrilled to see familiar faces come back day after day, throughout the week. Some students attended upwards of five events.

While the energy and enthusiasm of the kids was central to the success of all of the events, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the amazing contributions provided by our partners; Innovate Pasadena, Apple, Supplyframe DesignLab, Kidspace Children’s Museum, Coding for Treasure, Mayseo the Magician, Barnabas Robotics, Neon Retro Arcade, SGV Codeschool and codeSpark. All of the time, effort and patience invested by these organizations made the whole week possible. We truly can’t thank them enough for their support of all our students.

Ultimately, the “Connect Week for Kids” initiative was an endeavor well worth the energy spent visiting venues, planning and coordinating the various activities. We knew all of the hard work had paid off the moment we saw a student have an “aha!” moment when building a simple light bulb circuit. The students were able to connect with one another, STEAM:CODERS and our partners. It was a great week!

Mayseo the Magician shows kids the science behind magic.

What was your experience as a “Collaborator” during Connect Week?

STEAM:CODERS was thrilled to be part of the 2016 Connect Week activities. We introduced nearly 200 students and their parents to Connect Week. We tried to make it fun and exciting for the students. Based upon the feedback we received, we were successful.

What do you see as the future for Pasadena area kids?

Bringing kids and their parents into the fold bodes well for the future of technology in Pasadena. Expanding the overall level of interest and participation in the STEAM fields will help create a solid core of future innovators.

What you are doing is so important. How can anyone who wants to help contribute?

Collaborations and partnerships are keys to helping us build the next generation of participants in the STEAM-related fields. If you are interested in sharing your ideas, time and resources to help kids discover STEAM educational opportunities, please contact us at info@steamcoders.org.

Originally published at www.innovatepasadena.org on November 17, 2016.