AT&T employees are actively involved in STEM training in their communities to promote and support innovation in young minds. In 2013, OASIS at AT&T (the South Asian Employee Organization at AT&T) set an ambitious goal to teach 1000 students how to make their own mobile applications using MIT App Inventor.
To achieve the goal, OASIS launched the ‘Mobile Apps Workshops’ initiative. The first workshops were hosted in May 2013 with 25 participants in Schaumburg, IL and Plano, TX. The workshops were so well received, that OASIS expanded it to all its chapters and by October 2013, OASIS was able to exceed the goal by successfully teaching over 1200 students how to create their own mobile apps.
OASIS partnered with TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs – a not-for-profit organization created for the advancement of entrepreneurship) to create the curriculum, and partnered with the Girl Scouts of North Eastern Texas to ensure the curriculum met the criteria for a STEM Patch for Girl Scouts.
The project spanned 7 OASIS chapters with workshops held in 10 cities across the United States. AT&T leadership actively supported the OASIS 'Mobile Apps Workshops' by providing flash drives and mobile phones for the children to test the apps they created. OASIS trained leads in each chapter on using the MIT App Inventor to teach the workshop, manage logistics and facilitate the surveys. A special tool OASIS used at these events was the "pre-post survey" - the same questions were asked before the workshop and after to measure the change in student perceptions towards STEM. Some insights resulting from the surveys were:
- Overall, every survey answer moved to positive territory, meaning students were more encouraged to take up STEM careers or be interested in STEM after the workshop.
- For the question 'Do engineers have fun at their jobs?" – 67% students responded positively at the beginning of the workshop. At the end of the workshop, 85% of the students had a positive response.
- For the question ' Is designing and making Mobile Apps easy?” 24% students responded positively at the beginning of the workshop. At the end of the workshop, 61% of the students had a positive response.
- For the question “Is designing and making Mobile Apps fun?” – 64% students responded positively at the beginning of the workshop. At the end of the workshop, 90% of the students had a positive response.
It is clear that the MIT App Inventor is changing perceptions of STEM!
To prepare for the workshop, students were asked to download the software on their laptops before the class – this also made it convenient for them to begin experimenting as soon as they got home. The workshops were free, open to the public and held at AT&T locations as well as public libraries.
The overwhelming success of the workshops was very well received and recognized by AT&T leadership. OASIS won a $15,000 award from AT&T for leading the Mobile App initiative. To build on the momentum of this success, the OASIS leadership committee has already started planning and partnering with other organizations and employee groups to make a larger, more expansive impact with the Mobile App Workshops. 2014 promises to be an interesting year.