The future is now: 8 LA-based programs helping kids choose a future in tech

by John Siegel
July 7, 2016

In Los Angeles County, 80 percent of all students in the LA Unified School District live in poverty. This, combined with a lack of funding in certain communities, leaves a gap in education that neglects the professional futures of the students. Consequently, many students don't have the access to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum they need.

Over the past few decades, however, outside resources available to students have grown rapidly, with the number of programs and initiatives aimed at enhancing students' exposure to STEM becoming more accessible ever year. Here are seven programs shaping the next wave of LA tech.


Run by Dr. Sheila Tejada, a professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Southern California, CSavvy hosts workshops that provide fun, collaborative environments for girls to learn about computing. USC students and local high schoolers also take part in the workshops, serving as models for attendees to see how to develop their interests in computing over time. 


LA Makerspace is a nonprofit focused on increasing access to STEM for low-income children and families. The nonprofit uses a hands-on approach, much like shop classes of yesteryear, to help students learn through doing, rather than by being told. Since 2014, LA Makerspace offers free, family-friendly workshops to the public at various Los Angeles Public Library branches. 


No one is doing more to empower girls in the LA area than San Fernando's own, Luz RivasDIY Girls, a program designed to increase girls' interest in technology and engineering, is just one of Rivas's initiatives, focused on empowering young girls through science and technology. Since 2012, the program has offered mentorship to over 1,200 girls in the LA area. 


Curiosity Machine is a nonprofit designed to teach kids about the creative process, specifically about the positives of failure. As a kid, it's natural to see failure as the opposite to success, and it's a natural deterrent. Curiosity Machine wants to teach kids that failure is a natural part of an experiment's lifecycle, and that responding in the right way can lead to success. The online program allows children to follow along with famous experiments in history, putting them in the shoes of some of the most important people to have lived, in a manner that fosters creativity through curiosity. 


Teens Exploring Technology is a program created in 2009 dedicated to encouraging inner city African American and Latino teenage boys to explore careers and majors in STEM-related fields. Through the TxT academy, teens plan, design and develop web and phone applications and hardware to solve community problems or to meet needs in the marketplace. 


Girls Build LA is a three-year program designed to engage girls in LA County public schools, helping them design and implement community-based solutions related to STEM, health and civic engagement. The program encourages middle school and high school students to address issues in their community, fostering skills in leadership, collaboration and project management. 


Disney partnered with Girls Who Code to create a seven-week coding program on the Disney campus for high school girls that will introduce them to a highly-specialized computer science curriculum. The program focuses on web development and design, robotics and mobile development, and students will take technology-focused field trips to various parts of The Walt Disney Company.


Founded by Tara Brown and DIY Girls' Luz Rivas, KitHub develops science and technology kits designed to augment a student's existing STEM curriculum. The startup's ultimate goal is to help parents, teachers and students to foster curiosity and creativity through monthly projects featuring wearable tech, robotics and electronics. 


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