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07.24.2015 / Education

How to Get Detroit Kids Interested in Tech

By 2018 there will be roughly 230,000 open jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. That’s a huge opportunity for kids to capitalize on. However, there’s a catch. While many kids start high school interested in STEM, by graduation nearly 60% change their minds. For Detroit to find long-term success in the future, we need to find a way to get local kids excited about STEM. Luckily, there are tons of resources available to get kids excited and prepared to enter the high-tech workforce.

Summer camps and classes can be a great way to show kids that STEM fields can be fun—they’ll come back with tons of new knowledge, too! DAPCEP, a southeast Michigan nonprofit organization, provides STEM education to students age 4-18. They offer programs in nanotechnology, robotics, video game design, entrepreneurism, and more. The classes take place in universities, laboratories, museums, churches and other community centers. University of Detroit Mercy provides summer camps for high school students interested in engineering, including one specifically for girls. Students can build and program robots, learn to use design software, and explore transportation engineering. More of a Michigan State fan? Young Spartans from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade can enroll in their Spartan Youth Programs, which cover everything from agriculture to the physics of atomic nuclei. Some of the programs are free and financial assistance is available to those who need it.

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For kids who don’t want to spend their time in a classroom setting, the Michigan Science Center (“MiSci” for those in the know) is another great option. There are tons of kid-friendly options, from IMAX movies to science exhibits to an entire miniature town for kids to explore. MiSci even has a traveling science team that sets up science exhibits for schools and events. Memberships are also significantly cheaper than some of the summer camps, making MiSci a better option for those on a budget.

Kids don’t even need to leave home to learn about science in exciting and engaging ways. A variety of smartphone apps are available to get kids interested in STEM fields. SkySafari 4 lets young astronomers view over 119,000 stars and tons of other astral features. You can even use your iPhone’s GPS to identify stars, planets, and constellations in the night sky! Another app, Sid’s Science Fair, gives kids ages 3-6 a fun way to learn basic math and science concepts while identifying patterns and sequences. Young scientists can use a magnifying glass to inspect everyday objects, put images in a sequence using a “time machine,” and more! Don’t have a smart device? Not to worry, Sid has his own TV show on PBS Kids.

We’ve hardly even scratched the surface of the tools available to get kids excited about STEM. There are countless camps, programs, and apps available that can show kids how fun and important these fields are, but there’s something that each and every one of us can do to help—even if you don’t have kids.

At times people seem to forget that things you use every day—from the device you’re using to read this post, to the car you drive, to the medicine you take—are made by talented and creative people working in STEM fields. These programmers, engineers, and scientists that make our daily lives possible should be revered like celebrities. We can all do our part to honor these people and share our enthusiasm with those around us.

Detroit kids  have no shortage of STEM heroes to look up to. The entire crew of Apollo 15 went to University of Michigan, as did Larry Page, one of the cofounders of Google. Charles Lindbergh, the famous pilot (though that’s hardly all he ever did!), is another Detroit native from a STEM field worth looking up to.

Ultimately, all the games, camps, and exhibits we’ve reviewed here do the same thing—and it’s something we can all take part in. We need to take STEM out of the textbooks and bring it into the real world. Getting kids engaged with STEM is the key to a promised tech future for Detroit, and Rocket Fiber is excited to be a part of it!

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