Our mission is to use science, technology and engineering to develop persistent curiosity and to show that knowledge is empowering.
Our approach is to use a three-pronged strategy of teaching cutting edge science, engineering, and technology through hands-on, interactive lessons, using powerful mentors and enlisting strong parental involvement. Since 2006, we have reached over 16,000 people.
Iridescent leverages two untapped resources, engineers and parents, to address the STEM achievement gap. Our engineers receive far more training – 32 classroom hours over 16 weeks – than do volunteers in other outreach programs. Iridescent provides multi-session courses to the same families year after year; this structure, in contrast to Family Science Nights and other one-off events, allows our engineers to form long-term mentoring relationships with students and their families. Iridescent empowers parents because, rather than having them be bystanders, we help them become successful participants, investors and leaders of the Family Science Program.
We also use distinctive approaches to make science uniquely exciting for students. Our courses feature cutting-edge technology in an engaging, applied story instead of focusing exclusively upon discrete, basic science concepts. For instance, families learn about magnetism and waves by understanding how these principles make an MRI machine work.
Our goal is to have long term impact. Features of our model that enable long term impact are:
Two recommendations from Urie Bronfenbrenner that we have particularly taken to heart are:
Reacquainting children with adults as participants in the world of work.
“One of the most significant effects of age-segregation in our society has been the isolation of children from the world of work. Whereas in the past children not only saw what their parents did for a living, but even shared substantially in the task, many children nowadays have only a vague notion of the nature of the parent’s job, and have little or no opportunity to observe the parent, or for that matter any other adult, when he is fully engaged in his work. Although there is no systematic research evidence on this subject, it appears likely that the absence of such exposure contributes significantly to the growing alienation among the children and youth that we have already described. Yet, as experience in other modern urban societies indicates, such isolation of children from adults in the world of work is not inevitable, since it maybe countered by creative social innovations. Perhaps the most pervasive of these is the Soviet pattern described in this volume, in which a place of work – such as a shop in a factory, an office, institute, or business enterprise – adopts a group of children as their “wards”. The children’s group is typically a school classroom, but also includes nurseries, hospital wards or any other setting in which children are dealt with collectively. The workers not only visit the children’s group wherever it may be but also invite the youngsters to the place of work in order to familiarize them with the nature of their activities and with themselves as people. The aim is not vocational education, but rather acquaintance with adults as participants in the work of the society.
Acting on this suggestion, Dr. David Goslin of Russell Sage Foundation persuaded one of America’s great newspapers, the Detroit Free Press to participate in an unusual experiment to the White House Conference on Children. When it was over, two groups of twelve-year old children, one from a slum area, the other predominantly middle class had spent six to seven hours a day for three days in virtually every department of the newspaper, not just observing, but actively participating in the department’s activities. There were boys and girls in the press room, the city room, the composing room, the advertising department, and the dispatch department. The employees of the Free Press entered into the experiment with serious misgiving. “This is a busy place; we have a newspaper to get out every day. What are those kids going to do, just sit around?” What actually happened is recorded in a documentary film (“A Place to Meet, A Way to Understand.” The National Audiovisual Center (GSA). Washington DC). The children were not bored; nor were the adults. And the paper did get out every day. Here are some spontaneous comments recorded in the film:
“ Adults should talk more with children and pay more attention to them instead of leaving them in the dark – because you can’t really get to know much about each other unless you talk.” – Gian, age 11
“ It’s sad to see her leaving. In three days she became part of the group up there.” – Tony, age 53
“This is a place to meet, a way to understand people.” – Megan, age 11
“It’s been fun, it really has…. I talked to him about having him out to our house to meet my sons and visit with us.” – Joe, age 36
“If every kid in Detroit and all around the United States got to do this – I don’t think there would be so many problems in the world.” – Collette, age 11″
The involvement of children in genuine responsibilities.
“If the child is to become a responsible person, he must not only be exposed to adults engaged in demanding tasks, but himself, from early on, begin to participate in such activities. In the perspective of cross-cultural research, one of the characteristics that emerges most saliently for our nation is what Nicholas Hobbs has called the “inutility of childhood” in American society. To quote again from the White House Report:
Our children are not entrusted with any real responsibilities in their family, neighborhood, or community. Little that they do really matters. When they do participate, it is in some inconsequential undertaking; that is, the ends and means have been determined by someone else, and their job is to fulfill an assignment involving little judgement, decision making, or risk. The latter remains within the purvey of supervising adults. Although this policy is deemed to serve the interest of the children themselves by protecting them from burdens beyond their years, there is reason to believe that it has been carried too far in contemporary American society and has contributed to the alienation and alleged incapacity of young people to deal constructively with personal and social problems. The evidence indicates that children acquire the capacity to cope with difficult situations when they have been given opportunity to take on consequential responsibilities in relation to others and are held accountable for them.”
Taken from the book Two worlds of childhood: U.S and U.S.S.R
To ensure longer-term support and impact, we offer four weeks of summer programming to all our Family Science Course participants. The summer programs are conducted at the Iridescent Science Studios in Los Angeles and New York City.
Appropriate Approach for Target Audience
In order to increase parent-involvement, Iridescent addresses three barriers: low education levels , language and logistical issues such as lack of time due to long working hours, multiple jobs or single parenthood . Iridescent overcomes parent’s low education levels by designing materials that enable them to develop their own skills while facilitating their child’s learning. The program design also encourages year after year participation, allowing the parents to grow their skills to match their child’s grade level. The language barrier is addressed by providing bilingual materials, on-site translators and by communicating with adults via bilingual children. Logistical issues such as lack of time are mitigated by providing meals so that adults can free up the required time from preparing dinner, involving all the children to remove child care costs and by holding courses at convenient times and in safe, familiar locations (i.e. school sites). The emphasis on cooperative learning is culturally attuned to Hispanic and African-American communities whose “collectivist” cultures can clash with the individualistic nature of most formal education. Collectivism focuses on “interdependent relations, social responsibility and the well-being of the group”. We build on the support of the family through an emphasis on cooperative learning and by inviting all (toddlers to grandparents) to participate in exploration.
Iridescent’s Technovation Challenge applies the Iridescent mission to the unique needs of high school girls. High-tech and entrepreneurial professionals and university engineering students are trained to mentor underserved and underrepresented youth, to nurture their interest in high-tech careers, and to guide them through hands-on, project-based curricula of applied computer science and entrepreneurial skills. In our 12-week “Technovation Challenge” program, high school girls learn mobile phone programming and entrepreneurial skills, create a working mobile app and business plan, and pitch their proposal to venture capitalists and industry executives. The most compelling and viable mobile apps are fully developed, marketed, and distributed on global app marketplaces. Moving forward, we propose to scale the existing Technovation Challenge program, increasing outreach and participation nationally in the US and globally in countries including Canada, Czech Republic, Brazil, and India. We propose to develop and expand our programs efficiently and sustainably through ongoing partnerships with tech companies, venture capital firms, educational organizations, software development firms, and other organizations to support our program. Iridescent is committed to creating a sustainable pipeline to reach underrepresented and underserved youth at early stages and propel them, through long-term, immersive contact and a variety of rich opportunities, towards not simply achieving STEM careers, but becoming the next generation of high-tech leaders.
Our goal is to reach underserved and underrepresented students, expose them to cutting-edge technology and entrepreneurial training, and have a long-term, meaningful impact on their lives.