We hear a lot about STEM classes from TV, radio and social media. Thanks to major tech companies throughout the Pacific Northwest, our region embraces the growing trend of teaching science, technology, engineering and math from a very young age. But economists admit we’re still falling behind in producing graduates ready to jump into the creative, varied, exciting world of crafting tomorrow’s devices, innovations and tools. But now, thanks to Olympia STEM Classes, kids 10-years-old and older can learn coding, programming, data science and more right here in Olympia.
The Pew Research Center reports that “Employment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations has grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth…[And] STEM training in college is associated with higher earnings, whether working in a STEM occupation or not.” It’s also estimated that from 2017 to 2027 “the number of STEM jobs will grow 13 percent, compared to 9 percent for non-STEM jobs—with positions in computing, engineering, and advanced manufacturing leading the way.”
But, researchers warn, “The US placed 38th of 71 countries in math, and 24th in science [and] only 36% of all high school grads are ready to take a college-level science course. US universities are expected to produce only 29% of the required number of grads…to fill the 1.4 million computer specialist job openings.”
This is where local classes taught by those experienced in the industry are vital. At Olympia STEM Classes, owner and instructor Stephen Backholm is excited to help students find their calling. “What makes our classes unique is their express focus on real-world applicability,” says Backholm. “We do not cover our STEM subjects from a purely academic perspective, but rather from a practitioner’s perspective making the subject come alive for the student. My goal is that kids conquer their fear of technical things, gain the skills they need for tomorrow’s job market, and grow their confidence.”
The first cohort of classes begins in January 2020 (enroll here) and includes Coding 101 for Kids, Python Programming 101 for Kids and Teens, and Data Science for Teens. Sessions run for seven weeks and meet once a week for 90 minutes or two hours with an optional hour of weekly homework.
Coding 101 focuses on the basics of programming by creating animations, games and interactive projects. No previous experience is required. “Python is the most commonly used programming language in the world,” explains Backholm. “Python is used in finance, health care, engineering, data analytics, bio-medicine, robotics, artificial intelligence, and many more. Learning Python paves the way for your child to tackle problems in any field of study.” After that, teens are invited to study data science and analytics through data visualization, data collection, and use of basic statistics and math.
“The reason I want to teach these classes is that I see so many parents and kids shy away from technical subjects because they think they’re too difficult,” says Backholm. “I’m here to help them see that they are not too difficult to understand, and that with the right approach and attitude you can master these subjects.” Stephen has had an active 20-year career in explaining technology and how to use it, and specializes in cybersecurity, information technology, data science, and artificial intelligence.
When not prepping instructional materials and lessons, Backholm and his wife homeschool their five children, ages 5- to 12-years-old. He has also founded several companies and is the Director of Innovation and Technology for the Washington State Investment Board (WSIB).
Even if your child doesn’t go into a traditional STEM field, it’s a learning style seen in industries across the board. “Programming isn’t just for software developers or computer engineers,” says Backholm. “Coding skills are now being used across all professions from lawyers, doctors, investors, accountants, engineers, and almost every other field. Programming teaches your child to think how a computer thinks and to recognize how to solve problems programmatically. Coding skills also give your child confidence that they can understand and do technical things.”
Everything profession in the future will either be automated or augmented by programming. Give your kids a head start by enrolling them in a midwinter session at Olympia STEM Classes. Courses are limited to 12 children so sign up now to guarantee a space. Sign up or ask a question online and help them conquer the unknown.