Editor’s note: Startland News is continuing its ‘Fund Me, KC’ feature to highlight area entrepreneurial efforts to accelerate businesses or projects. If you or your startup is running a crowdfunding campaign, let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Today’s featured campaign from Operation Breakthrough spotlights a campaign by the nonprofit childhood development center to boost its STEM program with a laser cutter.
Your name and title?
Jadwin Rowles, STEM Lab instructor (along with Operation Breakthrough STEM Lab students)
What’s the name of your company and what does it do?
Operation Breakthrough’s mission is to help children living in poverty develop to their fullest potential by providing them a safe, loving and educational environment. We also strive to support and empower the children’s families through advocacy, education, referral services and emergency aid.
Every week day, Operation Breakthrough sees to the basic needs and beyond to more than 420 children and their 235 families. In 2016, 33 percent reported being homeless or in immediate danger of losing their home. The families who we serve live more than 50 percent below the federal poverty line, surviving on incomes of less than $12,000 annually. Despite circumstances, for the past two years more than 90 percent of our 5-year-olds tested as “Kindergarten Ready.” Nationally, fewer than 50 percent of children in poverty enter kindergarten ready to learn.
Why are you launching this campaign?
Currently, our STEM Lab is limited to using materials that can be cut with scissors or box cutters: cardboard, toilet paper tubes, bottles, craft sticks, etc. A laser cutter machine will allow children to use a wide range of materials, such as metal and wood, with better accuracy. The machine also will introduce students to the vast materials that can be used and re-used to solve everyday problems.
I believe in exposing children to design, problem solving, and inventive thinking skills at a young age. As early as preschool, my students will be using recycled materials to make pulleys, levers, zip lines, robots, and beyond.
Our STEM program continues to expand and my students’ interest in STEM is extremely high. Our robotics team has tripled in size since it began; the momentum is incredible. The success we have experienced since launching our STEM program continues to motivate and enthuse us at Operation Breakthrough to strive to be an innovative model in STEM. One of the over-arching themes at Operation Breakthrough is do more and do better; this project will help us to work towards this goal.
How much money do you hope to raise with your campaign?
We have raised $1,060 of our $2,500 goal. We hope to raise another $1,500 to complete the campaign.
How are you differentiating your campaign or bringing attention to it?
Following our initial post about the campaign on social media, we added a video of one of our students, Destiny, talking about what she would do with the laser cutter (she is making a hydraulic hand).
We are also posting weekly updates on the progress on the campaign.
Is there anything quirky, fun or unusual you’re trying with your campaign?
My students are among the most resilient youth I’ve ever met. Life in the urban core — the population we work with at Operation Breakthrough — comes with challenges.
As the STEM Lab instructor, I am lucky enough to witness the impact that STEM education has had on our children. Our students are not only being exposed to life skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and perseverance but also gaining essential 21st Century skills, such as digital literacy, inventive thinking, and productivity. Our program aims to bridge the digital divide and close the opportunity gap for our children.
Since launching our STEM Lab in 2016, our students have thrived. Our robotics team captain, Damon, has designed a prosthetic leg for a 3-legged dog using 3D Design T-CAD. The STEM program has empowered him to become a leader in the classroom and encouraged him to be more imaginative in his ideas. The other day, he described to me his idea of building an electromagnetic engine to power and sustain an aircraft machine; his excitement is contagious to the peers around him.
Then there’s Destiny and Ma’Kiya, who have struggled to work together for months in the classroom, but were able to successfully collaborate together at their Regional Robotics Competition in November.
Lastly, there’s DJ. He came into my classroom not having any building/design skills and has since built his own hydraulic bridge. His focus has increased and he now perseveres through problems he encounters.
STEM education knows no age limit. At Operation Breakthrough, we aim to foster this interest beginning as early as we can. This is especially important for my students, who often experience turbulence in their family life due to growing up in the urban core.