As Kelly and I carefully step over demo debris as we walk through what will be the workspace one day (buildout is at a standstill due to zoning requirements), I’m simultaneously questioning and reminding myself why we are launching Silicon STEM. On one hand, the project seems daunting and the workspace feels in this moment like it will look this way forever. On the other hand, we know we aren’t the only parents with ‘tech kids’ who need an enrichment alternative to sports…and in this day and age, aren’t all kids ‘tech kids’ to some degree?
Unwittingly, Evan first inspired the idea when he was about 12 and told us that he wanted to learn how to code. (He’s now a sophomore at MINES majoring in Mechanical Engineering and CompSci.) He was always a fast-learner-type-guy and generally more interested in how things worked, instead of just being a user…particularly when it came to video games.
Kelly started doing some research to try to find a programming class that Evan could attend. Amazingly, the only thing available was Community College…ah, sorry, but we weren’t about to drop our 12 year old off at ACC, no matter how good the class was!
Funny enough (but not funny at all), at just about the same time; we found ourselves writing a check to the competitive soccer league for our younger son, Christopher. (Note: $1 for coaching + $1999+ for the special ball, special bag, special jersey, special sweats, travel and other misc. stuff). Don’t get me wrong – we’re big believers in sports and the lessons learned from winning and losing, but something didn’t seem quite fair when there wasn’t an enrichment option for our ‘tech kid’ when there were so many options for ‘sports kid.’ (Although Chris is techy, too…Don’t you love how we label our children? I know you do it too;-).
Kelly and I were more than willing, and thankfully in a position, to invest in exposing our sons to pursuits they expressed interest in – over the years, this included anything from drum, piano and bass guitar lessons, to virtually all sports including gymnastics, baseball, lacrosse, soccer, skiing and snowboarding – and believe me, I have a garage to prove it! I also remember the discussion with Chris’ soccer coach about the need to “specialize” in soccer and to forego playing any other sport. Seriously? Does a 10 year old really need to ‘specialize’ in soccer?
Not to go all ‘economics’ on you, but I began to ask myself what the ‘return on investment’ was likely to be for these activities? Great learning experience, great exposure, new friendships – sure, we’re all in favor! Like any parent, we just want our kids to be happy, kind, productive human beings. But we knew that if we could have helped our older son pursue his passion at that age—computer programming, we knew the ROI would have been undeniable and would have given him a head-start on his apparent college and career path.
Fast-forward 8 years. When we saw no appreciable improvement in STEM education in a world that demands technology skills…and we knew we had to do something about it, and Silicon STEM Academy was born. STEMpocalypse!
Kelly and I will go on record to confirm that we are not bashing our education system. Some of our best friends are teachers, my mom was a teacher; but the truth of the matter is that we have a system that was built for the last century and can’t move fast enough to prepare for this one.