Raymond Ealy, Founder of STEAM:CODERS is on a mission of good.
Focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math his STEAM:CODERS curriculum has introduced over twenty-four hundred K-12 students to various STEAM fields like computer science, engineering, robotics, art and design.
STEAM:CODERS is a nonprofit organization that helps underrepresented children learn the fundamentals of STEAM education to set them up for future academic success.
I recently had a chance to speak with Raymond about STEAM:CODERS and the importance of such a program.
Rich: How and why did you get involved in STEAM:CODERS?
Raymond: Many students who attend Title 1 schools or live within Title 1 communities do not have sufficient access to STEAM disciplines as far as instructors and exposure goes. Kids are falling behind in the early years of math, science and computer education. This, compounded with the fact that most of these children do not have access to basic equipment at home like the internet or a computer is a huge problem. There is insufficient opportunity to compete on a level playing field and I needed to do something about it for the kids who make up such a significant portion of our society.
Rich: Explain the nonprofit side and how you provide your services?
Raymond: STEAM:CODERS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and operates under the umbrella of community partners, who handle most office operations, giving us the freedom to focus on the program itself. STEAM:CODERS classes are conducted after school in Title 1 or charter school districts where there is a high rate of students at or below poverty level. Some schools are unable to let STEAM:CODERS use their facilities so we sometimes conduct classes within our local business communities. For example, in Pasadena we have partnered with SupplyFrame Design Lab, Caltech and Pasadena City College to host after school and weekend classes.
Rich: What is the enrollment/selection process to attend?
Raymond: STEAM:CODERS has served over 3,000 self-selected students. All prospective students are given the choice to join the program at will with no prior experience needed. As hard as it is to believe, most of these students have never had a coding class, a robotics class or experiential field trips to institutions like CalTech, Art Center School of Design, JPL, California Science Center, Google LA, etc. It is important to give the students exposure to the companies and opportunities that lie within the STEAM fields, and within their community. STEAM:CODERS classes and field trips connect the dots to what the future might hold if students are interested in STEAM disciplines as a career. We provide access to the opportunities kids need to understand what prospective STEAM jobs are available.
Rich: Nearly 3,000 students since 2014. Give me a glimpse of where STEAM:CODERS will be in one, two and three years from now?
Raymond: The goal is to have at minimum, an incremental addition of 500 students per year on a go-forward basis, while still ensuring the kids have proper exposure to different elements of STEAM education. The program will stay within Los Angeles County in the next year or two, but we will explore new opportunities to expand and export STEAM:CODERS to other areas with the help of corporate sponsors and higher educational institutions as they arise. One reason we have such deep roots in Los Angeles is because we have access to sponsors and universities, enabling STEAM:CODERS to grow while maintaining the overall mission.
Rich: Talk about your educational, corporate and community partners and how they impact your program?
Raymond: There are three pillars needed to keep STEAM:CODERS functioning:
- Since many schools lack computer labs, computer science instructors or a computer science curriculum, the support of academic institutions to offer resources and educational opportunities is vital to our success. Teaming up with districts and local colleges that can provide these assets is essential.
- Corporate partners are crucial in extending their resources and underwriting costs for STEAM:CODERS. We have great partnerships with esteemed companies like AT&T, Blue Shield of California, Bluebeam, City National Bank, Enbroaden, Idealab, Oracle, Spokeo, Warner Bros and many more.
- Innovate Pasadena has also been a major resource to our mission at STEAM:CODERS. The organization is a nonprofit that among many other things, works to support programs that spark interest in STEAM education. They have a deep network of companies that work in tech and help to drive and establish our educational initiatives. There are many robust and diverse tech companies on the ground in Pasadena and being a part of Innovate Pasadena has helped to connect us with startups, entrepreneurs, computer scientists and innovators. These experts have been the key to making sure our curriculum is current as things move very fast in these fields.
Rich: How is STEAM:CODERS different than others?
Raymond: STEAM:CODERS operate as a nonprofit while many of these types of programs are for profit. Another way we differentiate ourselves is to keep the focus on serving under served and underrepresented students ages K-12 who have less opportunity in STEAM disciplines. We want to ensure that every child interested in STEAM education has access to these opportunities. We don’t want the neighborhoods these kids come from to define them and strive to go to the cities that most organizations will not. At STEAM:CODERS, we want every child to be fully immersed in opportunities and experiences that will help drive their overall goals in STEAM education.
Mr. Ealy currently serves on the board of Innovate Pasadena, La Salle High School Board of Regents and LA’s BEST Advisory Board.