Nov. 28, 2016
Project Include is on a mission to empower all young people to benefit from the digital age. Last year, this group of dedicated engineering student volunteers provided free coding boot camps and workshops to almost 200 youth and adults in six diverse low-income communities in the Toronto area, with support from Google and Lighthouse Labs. Toronto Public Libraries also provided free facilities for many of the sessions.
The idea came to the group’s founder, Deborah Raji (Year 3 Robotics), when she spent a summer as an instructor at U of T Engineering’s camp for young kids. It got her thinking about how access to technology and engineering in early life depends heavily on where you live. “Few people pay attention to the real obstacles that keep low income youth from early exposure to computer programming and the tech industry,” says Raji. “The right mix of mentors, tools and motivation rarely occur organically in these communities.” So she had the simple of idea of taking the teaching to the people.
The group teaches a hard employable skill—coding—that lets students explore engineering in a tangible way. The experience has been eye-opening for the group’s members. “We were pretty surprised by the lack of available resources in community facilities in these neighbourhoods to accommodate our programs,” says Raji, a real barrier to entry into the tech industry that is usually neglected.
This year, the group’s goal is to double their reach by expanding to at least the thirteen City-designated high-priority neighbourhoods in Toronto. This will mean growing their volunteer team and increasing the number of laptops and other equipment needed for their workshops.
You can help support Project Include’s important mission!
- Volunteer with the group to share your expertise. Contact Deb Raji at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Are you an alum with experience working with NGOs or with low income groups? Help guide Project Include’s development as a mentor or member of the advisory board.
- Have you taught coding? Help train the group’s instructors, develop curriculum, or be a guest speaker.
- Donate used electronics. Your used laptops will provide much-needed equipment for workshops in regions where facilities are underequipped. Electronics or robotics parts / kits will be used for hands-on activities with participants. Contact Deb Raji at email@example.com.
- Provide financial support. Donations will provide much-needed funding for expenses such as laptop rentals, transportation, equipment purchases and program logistics. Donate at uoft.me/projectinclude.
Project Include has volunteers from across the engineering faculty. EngSci members include executives Afifa Saleem (Year 3 Biomedical Systems), Bethany Kon (Year 3 Robotics), and volunteer instructors Byron Leung (Year 4), Kashish Verma (Year 3 Biomedical Systems) Matthew Reiter (Year 2), Derek Lam (Year 2), Alex Lin (Year 2), Amita Pandithan (Year 2) and Chris Lee (Year 2).