Iridescent seeks to expand the reach and impact of our programs to reach as many needy students as possible.
Iridescent’s mission is to inspire and support children from underrepresented communities to become problem solvers, creators, engineers, scientists, and inventors. Our goal is to lift communities out of generational poverty by increasing access to technical careers.
Research shows that early, deep, broad, long, customized and direct support is needed to overcome the achievement gap for underrepresented communities. Such support comes at a very high cost and is not scalable.
We leverage technology and parent networks to achieve the necessary intensity and dosage of support. Our approach has three aspects:
- We use a highly engaging, in-person, project-based program that inspires, wows and hooks the students and families.
- We educate and empower parents to develop strong cross-linkages within their networks to help them run hands-on science projects in their homes with a smaller group of families.
- We employ an engaging, scaffolded online video curriculum and online community that supports self-directed exploration at home.
- Engineers as Teachers: Engineers and technology professionals go through a science and technology communication training program through which they learn to communicate their passion to children.
- Family Science Courses: Engineering professionals lead open-ended, hands-on, engineering-design courses with children and their parents.
- Technovation Challenge: A project-based program combining computer science and entrepreneurship for high school girls and women professionals in technology.
We have two physical engineering design studios (in South Los Angeles and South Bronx, NYC) that support families in the community with access to engineers, materials and supplies, tools, technology, and books.
- We have reached more than 16,000 underserved children and parents and engineers in Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
- In our programs, 74% of the students have become more persistent in problem solving and 70% said they realize they are good at engineering.
- Through the Technovation Challenge, over 800 high-school girls have programmed 125 mobile phone apps. 94% of these girls now believe that a career in technology is a viable option for them.
- See our impact for yourself: 2010-12 impact video
We aim to achieve the following:
- For students to make significant gains in persistence, courage to try new things and creative problem solving skills
- To provide more than 150 contact hours of support per participant (combination of in-person and online)
- To provide the above support at a cost/contact hour of less than $10/hour
The following aspects of our approach make us unique and set us up for long-term success, scale and sustainability.
- Heavy reliance on parents. We leverage the high motivation and interest parents have in their child’s education to support our efforts. We also ensure that we are steadily educating and empowering the parents so that they continue the work we start in our programs.
- Long term commitment. We do not provide one-off programs to participants. Instead we form a lasting partnership with the student and parent, over which we work together to improve the child’s curiosity, courage, persistence and problem solving .
- High expectations. We don’t just aim to increase interest and knowledge in STEM. We aim to significantly improve curiosity, courage, persistence and problem solving, the cornerstone skills of a successful 21st century career.
- You get what you measure. We have robust data collection and evaluation systems through which we track the impact and cost-effectiveness of our programs.
- Heavy reliance on technology. We rely heavily on technology to amplify our efforts. For instance, we have developed an internal web and mobile phone application through which we can track all our program participants over the years and across all our programs. In addition to collecting attendance records, the system also allows us to monitor and track learning gains. Iridescent uses the mobile interface to administer pre and post surveys as well as capture video interviews of students describing their projects and problem solving techniques. Data from these mixed-methods of assessment is aggregated and associated with each student’s profile so that we can measure learning gains over a period of time.
- Implement best practices. We borrow heavily from a diverse set of successful organizations (such as Harlem Children’s Zone, Khan Academy, US FIRST, Toyota and Alcor) to develop lean processes and fast and efficient communication channels.
- Strong research connections. We have very deep connections to education and scientific research conducted at universities. Through this channel we are constantly learning and applying current research to practice to ensure the highest impact.
FIVE YEAR GOALS
- To engage 10,000 children and their families in South Los Angeles and the South Bronx in long-term science exploration (online and in our programs)
- To provide a robust Family Science model that can be successfully replicated anywhere
- To engage 200,000 high school girls (annually) through the Technovation Challenge
The path to becoming a successful problem solver, investigator and inventor is long and arduous. The “drill and kill” method to build factual knowledge isn’t enough to sustain this journey. Iridescent’s approach is to “inspire and equip”; to set very high expectations, show the tremendous possibilities, and then to build the necessary support infrastructure for a child to be successful on a multi-year expedition of higher-order learning.
Our approach for large-scale, long-term impact on STEM education for underrepresented communities has three aspects:
- engaging parents as key drivers to ingrain science exploration into a family’s social fabric
- leveraging mobile technology to support the family hobby and reach more people
- working with scientists to bring exciting cutting-edge science to families
BUILDING COLLECTIVE EFFICACY Instead of working with individual families, we will focus on groups of families so that a community’s social habits would encourage scientific and academic exploration, rather than pulling people away. Families who regularly attend our Family Science Courses will be invited to run similar courses for a few neighboring families at their homes. Iridescent will provide access to content and materials, but the families will drive the sessions. The goal is to transform STEM learning and exploration from a decision into a habit that draws on already-existing social urges and patterns.
COMMUNICATING THE MOST EXCITING ASPECTS OF SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION
Too often intervention programs for underserved communities have low expectations, rely heavily on ineffective teaching methods and extinguish the natural curiosity a pre-schooler exhibits. Our approach is to “inspire and equip”; bringing in the most notable experts in science and engineering to these communities to show them what is possible to achieve and how to achieve it. Experts share their strategies for learning new content, articulating questions, defining problems, exploring and comparing different solutions and overcoming failure. It is so much more interesting to learn about jellyfish locomotion and to learn about Newton’s laws of motion in that context, than to just memorize the laws themselves.
CURIOSITY MACHINE – A MOBILE PLATFORM TO PROVIDE CONTENT SUPPORT Success for us is when children become self-directed learners; when they move beyond passive consumption of information, start constructing their own interpretations, and contribute to the knowledge base by innovating. To be able to do so, we need to develop their problem solving skills, persistence, and courage over many years. Mobile technology presents the ideal platform through which we can scalably provide the high dosage and quality of content support needed to make these higher-order learning gains.
HOW DOES IT WORK? The sequence of activities and support will be as follows:
- Families are invited to a Family Science Course conducted at their school or at an Iridescent Science Studio. The course would be led by engineers and would mark the beginning of the family’s scientific explorations.
- Families will be assigned to “Anchors” (loyal families who have more than two years experience with Iridescent) and will meet together once a week to conduct experiments.
- Families will rely on the Curiosity Machine (that they will access through tablets and smart phones provided by Iridescent) for content support.
FIVE YEAR GOALS
- Scale and Depth of Engagement – Providing at least 150 contact hours each (hybrid of online and face-to-face instruction) to 10,000 participants in South Los Angeles and the South Bronx. These participants would be drawn from at least 30% of the student population in 20 local partner schools or educational organizations.
- Curriculum – Iridescent becomes the primary (online) resource for scientists’ videos that showcase cutting-edge science applications. Our goal is to add 40 scientist’s videos each year..
- Access to award-winning scientists who can clearly articulate their research
- Access to makers/inventors who can develop experiments relevant to the scientist’s research.
TECHNOVATION CHALLENGE VISION STATEMENT
Technovation Challenge aims to inspire and support girls to become creators and inventors of technology. Research shows that the social conditioning girls receive as children, to be nurturers and not explorers, runs very deep, and it takes a lot to uproot it. However, a powerful, positive computer science learning experience in high school can become the deciding factor in girls’ decision to major in computer science. Such experiences can fundamentally increase their self-confidence which is the significant difference (and not ability) between male and female computer science students.
The Technovation Challenge brings high-school girls and professional tech women to work together to develop mobile phone applications in a ten week program. In addition to teaching computing and problem solving skills, the program has a start up, real-world component that requires each team to develop a business plan and take their ideas to market. At the end of the program, teams compete by pitching their apps to a panel of venture capitalists.
IMPACT The program is powerful for both the girls and the mentors as it provides a safe environment for them to step out of their comfort zone and take risks with computation, entrepreneurship and leadership. Over the past three years over 800 high-school girls have programmed 125 mobile phone apps and learned how to launch their startups. 94% of these girls now believe that a career in technology is a viable option for them. Watch our short overview video.
VISION Our five year goal is to annually engage 200,000 girls world-wide. To make this scale-up a reality and a success, our approach has three key aspects:
Online, scaffolded content – We will develop a sequenced, well documented, online curriculum that provides an introduction to programming, mobile phone application development for various platforms such as the Android, Windows and iOS and entrepreneurship. We also plan to provide an online, professional development course on women executive leadership and entrepreneurship that are targeted towards the women mentors to help them develop as leaders. Both courses would be run as massively, open, online courses (reaching >100,000 female students) to significantly increase our impact.
Vibrant, global community of women developers – To ensure year-long support and engagement with the girls and mentors, we will build an exclusive online community of girls and women developers through which participants can share their code, get their problems solved and support each other to take their app ideas to market.
Community of resources – We will engage global, corporate partners, venture capital firms, universities and high schools to build a strong infrastructure that can support high school girls towards a career in computing. Each of these partners will provide the following support to enable our vision to become a reality:
- Technology Corporations – provide access to women mentors, two field trips, senior executives for the Technovation Challenge Steering Committee, connections to community and educational organizations and fiscal sponsorship.
- Venture Capital Firms/Tech Councils – bring experts in technology, project management, product development to lead development sessions for the mentors
- Universities – host “hackathons” on campus through which high school girls are introduced to women computer science university students and faculty.
- Engage 1000 high school girls globally in 2013 and sustain a steady 2x scale up each following year.
- Secure 40% of alumni return to the program to compete and develop progressively more sophisticated apps
- Drive more than 60% of the girls to remain engaged with technology after the program.