MassRobotics built the Jumpstart program with the goal to encourage and empower diverse high school girls to pursue careers in robotics and promote the diversity of the robotics workforce by giving them a solid foundation of technical skills as well as mentors and professional network to give them the confidence and support they need to pursue a career in the tech field.
What skills does the program provide? We spoke with robotics companies interested in collaborating and taking a couple of high school interns once the high school girls completed our technical program. We based the program around the technical skills and experience needed for girls to be able to have meaningful work at these robotics companies. We wanted them to feel they accomplished something during their internship.
The curriculum runs from January through May and includes nearly every Saturday and a school vacation week, followed by the opportunity with an internship at a local technology company. The coursework includes design, fabrication, and coding. We added programming around soft skills as well and students practiced conversing with adults so they would feel comfortable in a professional work environment.
The inaugural year was limited to eight students due to COVID and number of secured internships. As with any pilot, there were lessons learned from employers and students, and we’ve updated curriculum to include more programming and expanded adding Arduino and python projects. We also added a project management task.
Our second cohort included 17 girls and additional program collaborators to take on summer interns. We celebrated cohort 2 and their achievements in May 2022 and many will be moving on to summer internships within the next month.
Industry collaborators and partners contributed to the success of the program and a special thanks goes out to our volunteers who brought enthusiasm, knowledge and experience to the classroom and lab each Saturday! This program is a true community and industry collaboration.
- La Fondation Dassuault System for two grants and financial support for the program.
- Mass Tech Collaborative for providing the Jumpstart stipends to the students for completing the technical coursework and supporting the companies with a financial internship match.
- The Boston Foundation for planning support grant.
- Greensight, SolidWorks, MathWorks and Lightspeed for curriculum and volunteer support.
- Industry for opening your doors for tours and talks and for taking students into your offices to provide meaningful internships and mentoring.
How do we measure success? At the completion of the Cohort 1 internships, we surveyed both students and employers and received a lot of positive feedback. Two students from Cohort 1 have recently completed their freshman year in colleges pursuing mechanical engineering with an interest in robotics. Two will be college freshman in September 2022 pursuing Computer Science and Robotics at local universities and a few have received a second internship with the company where they were initially placed. Our initial results show we are on our way to building the diverse pipeline needed for our future.
A couple of months ago, we celebrated our MassRobotics 5-year anniversary and invited Jumpstart alumni to join us for The Future of Work in the Age of Robotics event with US Secretary of Labor Walsh. The girls were asked to provide comments at the event and here are a few quotes from their presentations:
- “I found my passion in engineering and coding my future has never felt so much clearer”.
- “I never really had a ‘tech experience’ before the program.”
- “The experience helped me realize that I really do like tech and engineering and think it will be something I pursue as I think about my future, what I want to study, and my career.”
Our goals moving forward are to grow to 30 students in 2023 and then look to scale beyond Boston and find other cities interested providing this type of program to their students.
We are thrilled to be expanding our STEM programming with a $100,000 Cummings Foundation Grant. This will help us to continue to provide and expand young women of color a direct pathway to transform an interest in STEM to a passion and career in the tech field.