Young metro Detroit girl starts company aiming to get more minority kids involved in tech

Posted at 5:56 AM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 07:00:35-04

(WXYZ) — According to a demographics analysis from Wired, Black, Latino, and Native American tech professionals make up less than 5% of the workforce at major tech companies.

Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have committed to increasing diversity, but it's not easy when there isn't much diversity in the pipeline

In 2017, only 9% of college students graduating with a degree in computer science were Black, and only 10 percent were Latinx. Those numbers reflect the challenges kids face in K-12

A young woman from Troy has created a solution to the barriers kids face, in hopes to increase those numbers.

Danielle Boyer, 20, is the founder of The STEAM Connection. She started the non-profit in Troy back in 2019.

"I am actually speaking to you from our headquarters, which is really special. We teach classes here and we manufacture robotics kits that I invented," she said.

Bound found her purpose while pursuing her passion. She joined a school robotics team and realized she was different.

"My mother is Ojibwe and we are from the Sault Ste. Marie band," she said.

There were very few minorities, and often, she was the only girl on the team.

A report called the Leaky Tech Pipeline points out the lack of diversity at tech companies starts back in schools.

Schools with low-income students and students of color are much less likely to have funding for after school clubs or advanced math and science courses

For example, only 1 in 10 Black students attend a high school that offers physics, according to the study.

Only 23% of all AP Computer science test-takers are female and nearly 85% of these female students are White or Asia

Boyer decided to start robotics teams for girls in underrepresented communities, but she hit a roadblock

"A lot of the robot education kits cost $500 and that’s just not accessible," she said. "I thought there had to be something better, but I looked and there really wasn’t."

So she invented a solution - a robot named Ekgar

"Every kid gets a robot. It costs less than $20 and goes to kids for free - its a 3D-printed body and the kids can wire it, program it, assemble it and it's so so special," she said.

During the course of the pandemic, her nonprofit gave away 4500 free robot kits and offered online coaching sessions - empowering thousands of students like 13-year-old Vineya Gunshaker

"Seeing Danielle inspired me to create my own robot that can also help people," Gunshaker said.

Gunshaker is also the co-host of the hands-on techie talk podcast.

“We are meant to do the awesome things we do and change the world, and to our listeners, you are meant to be pursuing all your crazy cool interests your unique attributes skills passion only makes you stronger," Gunshaker said.

Representation and accessibility in tech leads to learning and enjoyment

You do need to apply to receive a free robot. Priority is given to schools or non-profit groups who serve low-income and minority communities.

She also provides other resources. Click here to learn more.