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High school startup The Inventor’s Club aims to empower young technology leaders

BY NAISHA ROY

The Inventor’s Club, an initiative founded by Ananya Dua, a rising senior at Monta Vista High School, California, expanded its efforts to educate budding leaders in the fields of technology and computers. The program focuses on teaching young kids, especially those demographics that are severely underrepresented in the field, through various online boot camps, information sessions, and speaker panels. 

“Through my own pursuits in technology as a female, and experiences of other girls and non-binary youth, I’m aware of how excluded these groups can feel in a male-dominated culture,” Dua explained. “There are stereotypes about the capability and competencies of these groups in technology cultures, and through the initiative, I want to disrupt these stereotypes.”

The Club’s most interesting upcoming event is their Fall 2022 Speaker Showcase featuring Lavanya Sundarsanam, Shashank Jain and Irene Lo. The camp consists of both female speakers and those part of the LGBTQ+ community, with a special focus on aiding neurodivergent students such as those with ADHD. The aim is to instill a sense of accomplishment and passion in all the participants and allow them to find their space in the technology sphere regardless of their demographics.

The Fall 2022 camp will consist of four modules on app development, innovation, UI/UX design and Introduction to AI. Additionally, the three speakers are all experts in their fields, with Sundarsanam being Director of Technical Operations at ChalDal, Jain being a Senior Lead Software Developer at Adobe, and Lo being an Assistant Professor in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University.

Dua talked through the process of how these boot camps functioned, stating, “First, we start in the first 2 weeks by teaching [the participants] the basics of downloading software, setting up an account and playing around on their own with the tools. Then, we transition into demos on different features and techniques in app development. Through this section, participants are able to build many apps of their own by following along with the instructors.”

“Finally, the last section is when the kids come up with their own idea and bring it to life with the skills they’ve learnt throughout. I hope that the students are able to take away not just the skills for app development, but also a sense of pride that they know how to turn their ideas into action,” she explained.

Dua started the initiative in 2020 and now has a team of over 13 members, including several women who have started local chapters. She had the idea after volunteering at a local elementary school and recognizing the need for such a program. Other team members include Adithi Girish, ​Director of Technology, Samarah Hiba, Director of Marketing, and Lucy Han, Director of Curriculum. 

Additionally, the Inventor’s club has won several awards and grants allowing them to further their work. Some of these include the Power of Youth challenge in 2021, a grant from the Heartwarming Project, and partnerships with LITAS Learn for Girls and the Student Machine Learning Coalition.

“I think one of our biggest achievements as an organization has been the Google Education grant we received for our work. This grant, among other micro-grants won, is helping fund our kits and programs and I couldn’t be more thankful!,” Dua recalled. “More personally, I felt very proud to be recognized by the NCWIT Bay Area foundation for my efforts. These recognitions are just further validation that our work is recognized, and that feels great.”

Dua also encourages students of all genders and ages to pursue their dreams in the technology field regardless of their backgrounds. This is evident from their past boot camps in 2020 and 2021 which initially focused on women and non-binary participants, but later opened up to all elementary school students.

“I’m aware that sometimes non-conventional groups, be it girls, members of the LGBTQ+ community or kids with neurodevelopmental disorders are excluded from these activities, but recently, there have been so many programs and initiatives launched with the goal of accommodating them,” she concluded. “There are online classes you could engage in, or even websites such as Hour of Code that help children build these skills.”

Additionally, interested participants, parents, or people in the technology field can check out the club’s website at https://theinventorsclub.weebly.com/ for more information on coding, their camps, and resources.

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