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TECH CORPS: More than twenty years of teaching students about technology

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Since 1995, TECH CORPS members have helped young Americans in K-12 schools and youth-serving organizations learn how to build this country’s technology infrastructure. Inspired by the Peace Corps model, in which U.S. volunteers help citizens in other countries build their infrastructure, TECH CORPS staff members and volunteers have focused on teaching computer science and information technology to U.S. youth. To find out more, we contacted Lisa Chambers, national executive director at TECH CORPS:

Q: Can you give us a general overview of TECH CORPS and its mission?

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We chat with Lisa Chambers, national executive director at TECH CORPS

A: TECH CORPS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that K-12 students have equal access to computer science (CS) and information technology (IT) programs — skills and resources that enhance early learning and prepare them for college and career.

TECH CORPS develops technology programs and deploys tech-savvy talent to assist K-12 schools and youth-serving organizations across the country.

The mission of TECH CORPS is three-fold and is achieved through:

  • Programs: Bringing additional technology resources to K-12 students and teachers through national, state and local programs such as: Computing Career CORPS (information for high school students on jobs in technology); E4Tech (professional development model and curriculum for educators); High School Coding Camp; Student CODE CORPS (computer programming for high school students); Student TECH CORPS (tech training and certification for middle and high school students); Student WEB CORPS (web-development skills for high school students); Techie Camp (full-day, weeklong program of STEM-related activities for elementary and middle school students); and Techie Club (40+ hours of technology and engineering concepts for third- through sixth-grade students).
  • People: Recruiting and supporting tech-savvy volunteers from the community to advise and assist schools and youth-serving nonprofit organizations in the integration of new technologies.
  • Partners: Increasing educational technology resources through partnerships with education, business, government and community.

Q: In what cities/states is TECH CORPS active?
A: TECH CORPS is active in the state of Ohio; greater Atlanta, Georgia; Providence, Rhode Island; and Trenton, New Jersey. In 2018, we will expand into Colorado and California.

Q: Approximately how many students have you helped?
A: Last year, TECH CORPS served more than 1,500 in Ohio, Georgia, Rhode Island and New Jersey. This year, we will serve more than 2,000 students in those four states.

Q: What are your approaches to keeping kids engaged?
A: TECH CORPS believes that studying CS, regardless of a student’s ultimate occupation, provides the critical computational thinking, knowledge and practices necessary to be ready for college or career. TECH CORPS programs are not computer-literacy programs; instead, they put students in the role of actively creating and designing with technology — not just passively using and consuming it.

While working and learning together to collaborate, communicate, think critically and solve problems, TECH CORPS students begin to absorb the essential tools and concepts that lead to CS and STEM educational and career pathways.

Q: Do you target underserved populations of students?
A: Absolutely. TECH CORPS serves all students, but the organization also prioritizes serving students traditionally underrepresented in computer science, including girls, ethnic minorities and students from low-income households.

Tech Corps No. 3Q: Do you have special summer programs?
A: Yes, we offer one- and two-week summer camps as well as a Summer Youth Employment Program.

Q: Are they a bit different in approach from your programs held during the school year?
A: During most of our summer programs, students take a “deep dive” into one topic; whereas, our school-year programs tend to be more exploratory with multiple topics.

Q: How do they differ from other summer STEM-related programs of other organizations/schools?
A: For more than 20 years, TECH CORPS has provided students, teachers and schools with programs, resources and support to enhance the teaching and learning process. TECH CORPS is the longest operating technology education organization in the country and has evolved as the needs of K-12 students, teachers and schools have evolved.

Additionally, TECH CORPS was one of the first organizations in the United States to develop innovative and informal educational CS programming for early learners (grades 3-5).

TECH CORPS provides proven curricula and a process for delivering high-quality CS programming to K-12 students and teachers. Program details can be found on our website: techcorps.org.

Q: In the past, Battelle has funded some of your work. Have other partners aided your organization, either with funding or manpower? How important are such outside contributors to your mission, and how do you recruit them?

Battelle funded TECH CORPS in 2015 and 2017.

Battelle funded TECH CORPS in 2015 and 2017.

A: TECH CORPS has a successful record of developing informal education technology programs and then sustaining the programs through a combination of public and private underwriting.

TECH CORPS receives support from a wide range of public and private partners including Nordson Corporation Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Franklin County Department of Job & Family Services, State Auto Insurance, OEC, Cognizant, Progressive Insurance, Cardinal Solutions, the city of Columbus and the Columbus Foundation, to name a few.

Our partners and supporters provide us with the fuel to deliver much-needed technology resources to K-12 students and teachers. TECH CORPS is always looking for new partners to help us advance our mission and serve more students and teachers.

Q: How do you recruit your volunteers and staff members?
A: Recruitment of volunteers is driven by the program and need. TECH CORPS has opportunities for teams of volunteers as well as individuals. Being a TECH CORPS volunteer brings an opportunity to serve as a role model and a resource for K-12 students and teachers. Last year, TECH CORPS volunteers directly impacted more than 800 students.

As for staff members, TECH CORPS hires full- and part-time instructors and support staff throughout the year. Instructors and support staff are given the training, content and guidance to successfully coordinate and implement all day-to-day aspects of various TECH CORPS programs.

Our recruitment efforts for staff are typically through partnerships with area colleges/universities, other youth-serving organizations and referrals from past and current staff members.

For additional information about volunteering or working with TECH CORPS, contact the TECH CORPS office in Columbus at 614-583-9211.

Q: What else would you like to share with our readers?
A: Readers can subscribe to our E-News and receive low-volume emails about TECH CORPS programs and opportunities. They also can learn more about our work by following us on Twitter, @techcorps_org, or liking us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/techcorps.national.

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