Teens Enrich Communities Through STEM With Oracle Support

December 18, 2014

December 18, 2014 — Berkeley, CA: Teens from the TechHive, a teen internship program that launched in 2012 at the Lawrence Hall of Science, have contributed their science and engineering talents to enrich communities in the Bay Area. Applying a model of “connected learning,” teens are encouraged to not only be consumers, but producers of knowledge, tools, activities, and media messages.

Through the TechHive, high school interns get to be part of a creative team that nurtures curiosity, respects diversity, and challenges learners to be their best selves. The teens have developed youth-inspired engineering challenges and technology projects for the Lawrence Hall of Science exhibits and camps, at events like the Bay Area Maker Faire, and in neighboring communities. Recently the TechHive teens used Arduino programming, design, carpentry, digital media, and engineering drawing, to create the “Town of Terror”, a technology-enabled haunted house that helped a local high school raise $4000.

This Fall, the TechHive expanded to welcome a new cohort of 32 diverse students from 19 different high schools around the San Francisco Bay Area. The program aims for both inclusion and equity, reflected by the equal numbers of girls and boys engaged in the technology and coding projects. Many of the teen interns also speak multiple languages at home. They will learn from each other and from three multidisciplinary staff members. With the 100+ hours more of internship training in the coming year, teens will be ready to conquer many more design challenges and better positioned to contribute to a future STEM workforce.

Oracle has been a supporter of the program since in began in 2012, and recently granted $40,000 to the program.

“The level of creativity, ingenuity and talent demonstrated by TechHive teen participants is inspiring,” said Colleen Cassity, Executive Director, Oracle Education Foundation and Oracle Giving & Volunteers. “Nurturing our next generation of engineers, scientists and technologists is a top priority for Oracle, and we are thrilled by the success of this program for the students, mentors and community.”

The Lawrence Hall of Science also receives ongoing support from Oracle employee volunteers, who act as mentors, tutors, and experts for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). In addition, TechHive teens were able to participate in coding and technology workshops at Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores as part of the Devoxx4Kids conference.

Through opportunities like this and experiences working with engineering undergraduates at UC Berkeley, teens imagine, design, test, and code engineering challenges and technology projects. As they work on their projects, teen interns share their experiences on a blog on Tumblr, a Facebook Page, and also through videos on the our YouTube Channel.

As a result of the program, students have shown an increased knowledge and interest in STEM and careers, increased interest in taking more classes in STEM, and improved confidence in working with the public, teaching others, and communicating their ideas.

“Teens benefit from the program because they are immersed with peers and mentors in an exploration with science and engineering tools to pursue their own interests. However, the success of the program is measured not just on the impact on the students themselves, but also on our local community,” said Sherry Hsi, the TechHive program director. “The teens take pride in being able to see the faces of visitors and kids light up, and to know their work is helping families learn something new.”

Another community-focused project of the TechHive this past year was helping the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo by creating a motion triggered MP3 player to prompt music for the “Danny the Dragon” ride. “The community contribution of the TechHive to the Happy Hallow Park & Zoo was inspiring, and much needed,” said Shannon Heimer, Happy Hollow’s assistant general manager. “Our guests will appreciate the added experience for many years to come!”

In multiple ways big and small, teens are finding ways to make their contributions to make a community impact. With more training, mentoring, and practice in the coming year, teen interns will be ready to take on more!

Janet Noe
The Lawrence Hall of Science

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