STEAMsport, Inc. is a cut above the usual afterschool programs in underserved communities, because its focus, as you might have guessed, is STEAM. The children served by this nonprofit organization may not have internet access or computers at home, but at STEAMsport, Inc., they can learn robotics, coding, mobile app development, video game design, 3D modeling, and more, under the tutelage of bright college students, with supervision from an educational support specialist. That’s pretty amazing, in our opinion, and gives these children a way to expand their horizons and be and do anything they want.
This is why we gave STEAMsport, Inc., a small grant. This organization has the stuff we look for in our grant recipients. There’s hard work and planning here, and they’re serving up mentoring and seriously educational programing to kids who would not otherwise have the benefit of this type of learning. So yup. We gave them a small grant, and then we had a chat with STEAMsport, Inc., Executive Director William Oliver, MBA, to learn more about this work:
Kars4Kids: Tell us about your demographic, if you would. Whom do you serve? Where are your 17 Team STEAM clubs?
William Oliver: STEAMsport, Inc. has a specific focus on providing science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) exposure, education and competition to students living in underserved communities. Our students primarily live in subsidized housing, attend Title 1 schools and will become 1st generation college students. Are STEAM clubs are located in Atlanta’s Westside, West End, and East Atlanta communities.
Kars4Kids: How do students end up in STEAMsport, Inc.?
William Oliver: Students become a part of STEAMsport, Inc. through their local community, school, or afterschool programs. All programs are provided free of charge to our families. STEAMsport, Inc. is very aware that transportation is a huge barrier to learning for many of our families. For this reason, our programs are intentionally hosted in places where students already live, attend school, and spend their time after school. We serve our students in community centers, urban schools, and afterschool programs.
Kars4Kids: Can you tell us how STEAMsport, Inc., came to be? Are you the founder? What happened that first year of operation, in 2010?
William Oliver: STEAMsport, Inc. was founded in 2010 with 5 students from a public housing community. These students wanted to learn how to build and program robots. As a result of this early foray into robotics, we entered the students in the FIRST Lego League competition and they did extremely well. Wanting to do more, we continued to expand our STEAM offerings and education along with the number of students that we serve.
As the founder of STEAMsport, Inc. that first year of operation was extremely exciting, along with being a challenge. While there were many students who wanted to learn STEAM concepts, there was also a lot of work that needed to be done to educate students and parents on the benefits of having a quality STEAM education.
Kars4Kids: How does “sport,” the second half of your organization’s name, enter into what you do?
William Oliver: I named the organization STEAMsport, Inc. because I recognized the pathway to success for athletes and entertainers was through competition at early age. In the same way that LeBron James begin playing competitive basketball at an early age, or Dolly Pardon begin singing in competitions while she was young, it’s imperative that we begin exposing students to STEAM at an early age along with having them display their skills against students with whom they compete for college admission, internships, and jobs.
Kars4Kids: STEM subjects are important—everyone likely acknowledges that fact. But how do the arts figure into academic or career success in our technological world?
William Oliver: Our arts programs include media production, fashion design, and graphic design. Students learn how science and technology innovation can be used to create art. This allows students to be extremely creative but also learn math and science skills that can push their creativity as far as they want.
Kars4Kids: According to your website, STEAMsport, Inc., has provided more than 9 disciplines to over 2,000 students. Can you list some of them for us?
William Oliver: Our STEAM disciplines include land robotics, underwater robotics, autonomous drone navigation, computer coding, mobile app development, video game design, 3D modeling, a program we call Future Physicians, graphic design, and media production.
Kars4Kids: You are pairing participants with college students, to tutor and mentor STEAMsport, Inc., students. How many college students do you have onboard in this capacity? What is your process for matching mentor/mentee pairs?
William Oliver: We enjoy the benefits gained from our hub being located just steps away from the Atlanta University Center. This allows us to pair our students with some of the best and brightest young minds to serve as instructors and mentors. We currently have 23 students working with us this summer. College students come to us through community-based work study programs, the Corella and Betram F. Bonner scholarship program, and several campus organizations.
Kars4Kids: STEAMsport, Inc., ensures that kids have the basic tools they need to support learning, for instance laptops. How many laptops would you say you distributed this year? What percentage of your budget goes to supplies and equipment for the kids?
William Oliver: Our key partnerships are critical to our ability to provide holistic quality programming. It is through our partnership with Inspiredu that our students are provided with academic equipment including laptop computers.
Kars4Kids: You have a referral service for families to inform them of services that might help them and their children. For this purpose, you have an educational support specialist on staff. Can you elaborate on what exactly an educational support specialist does?
William Oliver: Our educational support specialist provides consistent support to our families and serves to connect them to individualized tutoring, support referrals, community information, post-secondary education guidance, and also serve to assist in tracking the progress of our students. Specialists are the glue that keeps STEAMsport, Inc. holistically connected with our students and parents.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for STEAMsport, Inc.?
William Oliver: STEAMsport, Inc. continues to grow in our ability to serve students in need. We have now expanded to serve students in Daytona Beach, Florida, and will begin serving students in Alabama and Rhode Island before the end of 2021.