Uplift, Inc. guides students between the ages of 4-21 through innovative educational experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, and Computer Science (STEAM+CS), teaching them how to use technology to innovate and solve everyday problems as they work towards making real world impact. Believing that education is key, Uplift strives locally to immerse DC youth in hands-on STEAM+CS educational experiences to prepare them for academic, employment, and entrepreneurial success. Classes specifically target residents in Wards 6, 7, and 8. Globally, the organization strives to educate students abroad via its culturally- and personally- relevant mobile and web-based STEAM+CS learning technology research and development efforts.
Uplift is recognized as an organization that successfully mentors and nurtures students, especially students of color, towards self-discovery; positive youth development, and a life-long appreciation for learning. The organization uses STEAM+CS concepts to engage students throughout their time with the organization.
Uplift current roster of classes focuses on creativity and design, problem-solving, and high order thinking skills:
Computer Programming – writing instructions that the computer follows; Class outcomes include simulators, artificial intelligence, data manipulation
Mobile Application (app) Development (Youth APPLab) – designing, developing, and testing computer programs that run on mobile devices (creative content, STEM concepts, games);
Computer Graphics & Illustration – generating digital visual works of art
- Game Design & Scoring (Music)
- Robotics & Embedded Technologies
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: STEAM+CS YOUTH DEVELOPMENT MODEL
Uplift’s successful teaching and learning experiences over the past decade have informed the organization’s teaching philosophy. This teaching philosophy emerged as the organization’s ‘STEM Youth Development Model.’ This model is intended to ensure students’ success in thinking critically about STEM concepts, in collaborating with peers, and in solving open-ended and real-world problems. Overall, the model combines and incorporates various proven pedagogical and instructor-training methods and is used throughout the organization’s entire roster of STEM courses. At the core is the Talent Quest Model of Education (TQM)–a theoretical framework that identifies the following five asset-focused strategies: (1) constructive social interactions; (2) learning community; (3) meaningful learning; (4) cultural resources; and (5) strategic learning and critical thinking (Boykin & Ellison, 2009).
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE & PERFORMANCE-BASED PROJECTS
Over the past three years, Uplift has achieved several major accomplishments organizationally and programmatically. Organizationally, Uplift won the 2010 MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media & Learning Competition, an international competition attracting more than 800 applicants, for the design of Youth APPLab. In 2011, the organization received recognition from Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; the Congressional Black Caucus; as well as Black Enterprise Television and Magazine.
Programmatically, Uplift created Myles & Ayesha in 2009, two African-American cartoon characters used to teach basic STEM concepts and guide PreK-3 student learning. The Myles & Ayesha Black Inventors Match Game was published on the Apple Store and Google Play in 2012 and to-date has over 12,000 downloads and 76,000 executions. In 2011, Uplift completed Youth APPLab, a project designed to teach 22 students mobile app development . Youth APPLab was funded as a result of winning the 2010 MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media & Learning Competition. Outcomes of this project included the creation of 30+ mobile applications and two students forming their own mobile app development company. Two siblings started their own app development as a result of their experience in Youth APPLab and have independently published 3+ apps on Google Play. The following summer, Youth APPLab students served as Uplift interns and worked with an entrepreneurial spirit to complete 5 additional mobile apps. They were responsible for managing their time, project goals, and for being accountable to to each other as well as to their assigned roles. During the summer of 2012, the organization made history when eight teenagers became the first all African-American team under the age of 20 to create a software application for the XO (the One Laptop Per Child laptop); it is called “WORD IT: A Vocabulary Activity.” Students learned the Python programming language and designed and built a working prototype of “WORD IT” in six weeks. This student team also created a version for Android devices.
Overall, we’ve serviced approximately 125 youth over the past 3 years, increasing their interest in STEAM+CS careers, guided the collaborative and individual creation of 40 andoid apps, 1 XO app,ication/activity mentored the creation of 1 mobile app development company, and supported 4 similar organizations in their effort to replicate our work.