Partner Spotlight: Comcast Cares Day Helps Make STEM Hands-On for Salt Lake Students

On April 21, 100 students from four middle schools in Salt Lake School District will have the unique opportunity to test out some of the latest technologies in a one-day hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) event at Northwest Middle School.

Comcast partners We Are Makers, alongside the Salt Lake Education Foundation and Salt Lake School District, will give students and parents the opportunity to participate in four on-hands workshops: drone piloting, full immersion virtual reality, 3D design & print, and robotics.

We sat down with James Yapias, President of the Salt Lake Education Foundation, Jennifer Vuich, Development Director, and Joseph Spence from We Are Makers to hear how volunteers will make an impact as students interact with the latest tools and receive mentoring experiences in technology.

Comcast: Tell us about the STEM workshop and the opportunities it will provide for local students.

Yapias: Here in Salt Lake School District, we have students from all walks of life. At Northwest Middle School alone, 29 different languages are spoken and household incomes vary widely. A workshop like this will provide space outside of the classroom for these students to test the latest technologies for themselves when they might not otherwise have the chance to do so.

Spence: We’re at a turning point in our technology landscape. If we look to the future, technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and our workforce will need to evolve with it. Many education systems fall short in preparing today’s students for those changes. By exposing students to the latest technology at an early age, we are setting them up for future interest and success in science, technology and engineering.

Comcast: How will this partnership with Comcast Cares Day impact students?

Vuich: This workshop is exciting because Comcast volunteers will be showcasing STEM in a way that’s relatable to this age group. Comcast employees, in particular, are in a unique position to show students the possibility of careers in the tech field. By showing the possibilities in gaming or drones, students can get excited and develop an appetite for more. Our hope is that this isn’t a one-and-done experience, but that it plants seeds of excitement for future growth and exploration in STEM.

Yapias: Providing this access to an underserved population of kids is meeting several needs — first, allowing students time outside of the school day to be creative, and second, exposing students to possibilities for their future careers. In our district, students are exposed to STEM starting in elementary school, but it’s important to maintain their interest and engagement. Middle school is a crucial time for that. A workshop like this allows each student to build on what they already know about STEM and start to see themselves as a creator and participant.

Comcast: In your own words, how can corporate and nonprofit partners work together to influence change?

Vuich: Comcast as a corporate partner is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to helping our students succeed. The Salt Lake Education Foundation supports Salt Lake City School District with unmet needs through funding we receive, and Comcast is helping us bridge that gap. In addition, because Comcast provides funding as well as volunteer power, we are able to offer students the workshop experience and the experience of seeing career men and women giving back to their community. We hope people will sign up to join us. Partnerships like this make it possible for our students to get this valuable experience and imagine a bright future. That is exciting to see.

Spence: It will be a unique experience for adult volunteers to experience the workshop as well. That is an additional benefit to a partnership like this. I hope that Comcast Cares Day employees walk away having learned something new themselves, and with a deeper appreciation for technology and how students engage it. The power of partnerships is in dismantling any preconceptions we have about an issue or topic and inviting people to engage aside from their previous bias. Our goal with this workshop is to do that for students and adults alike. We’d like to extend an open call to other like minded individuals and organizations to engage. There’s so much that can be done, and you have the chance to multiply the impact.

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