The lesson: if kids are the future, invest in them.
As a Silicon Slopes employee, this is a question I hear on a daily basis: how do we get more kids interested and participating in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities?
It’s a legit question, particularly within the Utah tech scene, with companies looking far and wide for more computer programmers. I recently spoke with NUVI CTO Brett Allred, who launched DevNano in response to the lack of adequate programming talent:
There are so many programmer jobs out there, so many opportunities, so many people that are hungry to do this. But there’s a disconnect in the way they’re being educated. What can we do to help change things?
Allred’s response — founding DevNano — provides a pathway towards change, especially for college-aged students and up. Another solution is to address the problem at a younger age — essentially, providing kids with more access and opportunity in STEM subjects.
InsideSales created the Do Good foundation, an organization that allows employees to donate time and resources to the larger community. As part of this, InsideSales started the Kids Coding Initiative, which allows many of Utah’s largest tech companies — including Domo, Qualtrics, and Vivint — to sponsor local elementary schools in their quest to learn more about coding. Utah’s state legislation is getting in the action by recently passing SB 190, allotting $1.25 million per year to a grant program that funnels money towards educating students and teachers in the area of computer science.
And for the second year, RizePoint is doing their part. They recently hosted a group of young students at their headquarters for the second annual RizePoint STEM Scholarship Awards, awarding 20 scholarships that cover the cost of any summer STEM camp. The kids are free to choose what they attend — some chose a Girls Go Digital camp, some chose a robotics camp at the U of U — but the point is, these kids are getting fantastic STEM opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“One of our company goals is to contribute to the future of tech in Utah,” said RizePoint CMO Michelle Suzuki. “We love helping local students develop an interest in science and technology, and it’s always a pleasure to meet students with a love of learning and the drive to do more.”
The scholarship program was formed in conjunction with Canyons School District and featured over 40 applicants, ranging from grades 5–10. As the program continues to gain steam, both RizePoint and Canyons hope to see other companies contribute in the effort to increase STEM opportunities for Utah’s kids.
“Thanks to the partnerships in the community like we’ve formed with RizePoint, we’ll be able to further and strengthen our efforts to inspire and educate the next generation of computer programmers, engineers, scientists, architects, and teachers…We had more students apply than we were able to fund, and we hope to expand the scholarship pool next year with more business partners,” said Canyons Board of Education president Sherril Taylor.