Some children in the programs are also gaining experience in one of our nation’s growing career fields.
By 2020, educators estimate that 1.4 million computing jobs will exist. Computer programming jobs are growing at two times the national average, but less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science.
A group of students from the After-School All-Stars program are gaining skills that will help prepare them for the growing career field, while also improving their academic performance and building self confidence.
This past summer, 15 students at Carver Middle School excelled while taking part in the NASA/MIT Zero Robotics competition, finishing second in the country.
Shauna Tulloch, an Orlando native and Brown University student, spent the summer volunteering with After-School All-Stars students as part of the Americorp program. All summer the students learned computer coding from the neuroscience major.
Computer coding is not available to the youngsters during the school year at Carver Middle, which caters to low-income students. The majority of the children had no experience working with computers.
The students embraced the project, participating in daily lessons. Competing at the regional NASA/MIT competition at Kennedy Space Center against children from mostly private and science-magnet schools, the team went undefeated. Carver Middle School’s team had the highest percentage of free/reduced lunch, minority and female students participating in the competition.
They returned to Kennedy Space Center in August for the national championship. The youngsters went to mission control where they watched spheres that they created digitally appear on the International Space Station, where two astronauts battled using code written by the students.
Six teams from around the nation participated in the championship. The After-School All-Stars squad finished second.
“To have these kids compete is a win,” After-School All-Stars Executive Director Tyler Chandler said. “This program has taken these kids and turned them into STEM competitors. This is a great story. This shows that these kids can do anything.”