At Tech Day, hundreds of kids dive deep into STEM

On April 13 and 14, Google’s Mountain View campus suddenly had
a much younger population. That’s because 875 high school
students stopped by for Google’s fourth annual Tech Day. Over 150 Google and
Alphabet volunteers joined the kids in 129 interactive STEM
(science, technology, engineering and math) activities to empower
them with knowledge and inspire them to get started in disciplines
like computer science.

But Tech Day isn’t just about fun and games. The event was
designed for students who may not have regular access to technology
classes at their schools. The students who attend Tech Day have
very little experience in technology and computing, but they might
leave the event inspired to pursue a new career path.

Software engineer Matthew Dierker started Tech Day in 2016,
based on a similar event at his alma mater. He started his
university’s program along with a friend at the University of Illinois, and
decided to bring the idea to the Bay Area. “I thought it’d be a
natural fit here, given the large number of passionate engineers in
Silicon Valley, plus I like organizing stuff,” he says. “I
gathered a few friends and that effort found a good home in
Google’s engEDU initiative.”

Students learn technology at Google's Tech Day event.

Since then, Tech Day has expanded to a full weekend, with three
times the students it had in 2016. And the list of activities has
grown beyond just classes. Kids can now participate in games and
breakout sessions that help them loosen up around technology. The
event’s organizers say one of the biggest obstacles the kids face
is not seeing all the career options they may have. “They might
think they can’t work in any role in tech just because they
struggle with math. This isn’t the case,” says Melaena Roberts,
a software engineer and volunteer team lead.

User experience designer Bingying Xia says she volunteers at
Tech Day because she’d like to let students know that there’s
more to tech than computer science. “The world also needs smart,
creative designers to find user problems and come up with
innovative design solutions,” she says.

Even if students aren’t interested in pursuing a career in the
industry, one of Tech Day’s biggest goals is to make technology
seem less intimidating. “Technological skills apply to any job,
even outside of the technology industry. Tech isn’t all sitting at
a desk in front of a computer,” Matthew says. “If that inspires
enough curiosity to keep someone learning, the skills they learn
will almost certainly be useful regardless of what they wind up
doing.”

Organizers and volunteers really invest themselves during Tech
Day to give students as much knowledge as they can, but they learn
a lot from the students, too. Melaena says student feedback has
informed how Tech Day has changed over the years. Volunteer Volker
Grabe, a software engineer at Waymo, says he notices kids speak
their minds more as the day goes on and they realize the day
isn’t as tough or competitive as they expected.

Their main takeaway from the students? They’re curious about
tech and excited to learn outside the classroom. “I saw raw
passion, curiosity, and excitement in the students,” says
volunteer Hannah Huynh, a product design engineer. “I was
impressed that these students were so dedicated to give up their
weekend to learn about engineering.”

Source: FS – Social Media Blogs 2
At Tech Day, hundreds of kids dive deep into STEM