WeMake 4H

Successfully implemented a low-cost but sustainable early STEM/Maker Education framework which can be easily replicated everywhere.

Photo of Rishabh Rout
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Technology

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

September 25, 2002

Help us stay in touch!

(732)-781-8222 NJ: Edison (08820)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

http://www.wemakenj.org/ https://twitter.com/WeMake4h https://www.facebook.com/wemake.nj.31

Date You Started Your Project Started

10/2/2016

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

In spite of increasing scientific consensus on the importance of early STEM learning, which is critical for creating the workforce of the future and solving most of the world’s problems, current school systems do not make early STEM education inclusive and accessible to every kid. As a result, the majority of young kids, especially in underfunded school districts, don’t have access to these skills and become unprepared workforce of the future.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I developed and successfully implemented unique, low cost solution to provide STEM and Maker education free of cost. I founded a 501c3 nonprofit organization within the Rutger University (NJ) 4-H framework, and invited local STEM focused high school students who aspired to do meaningful community service and join me as mentors to teach elementary and middle school kids. For their efforts, the mentors received 4-H volunteer experience letters, which satisfied their community service needs. We established a mobile makerspace operating model to cover multiple locations, and partnered with libraries, community centers, and Boys and Girls clubs to hold our weekly sessions at their facilities. We sourced most of our materials (robots, laptops) and funds from local donations and corporate supporters, like Bank of America, Google, and Birdbrain Robotics. We used donated money to buy materials for Maker projects. This model is low cost because all our mentors are volunteers and we didn’t have to pay for facilities. This model is self-sustaining and can be leveraged as an early STEM learning framework, complementary to current school districts, and can be replicated around the world.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I was part of First Lego League for 4 years and learned problem-solving skills using STEM in my early childhood. While in middle school, I visited the World Maker Faire in New York and was amazed by the Maker movement. I experienced a set of innovative solutions and cutting-edge technologies. I realized that the majority of my friends and neighborhood kids had no idea of programming, the Maker movement, or robotics, and that my school district curriculum didn’t cover these topics either. I decided that if I initiated a community project to share such knowledge with neighborhood kids, that would expose them to the world of innovation and motivate them in the right direction. I started by conducting summer Google Maker Camps at my home for two years. Then in 9th grade, I started my organization WeMake 4-H (www.wemakenj.org) in collaboration with the local 4-H.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

STEM-inspired local high school students who aspire to do meaningful community contributions are invited to join our organization as volunteer mentors based on their skills and commitment. They can choose one or more subject areas out of programming (HTML, JavaScript, Scratch, Java), robotics (EV3, WeDo, Finch), and Maker projects (Makey Makey, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printing, Movie making). They get trained in specific skills if needed. Local libraries and community centers are contacted to schedule and advertise our sessions at their facilities. Local elementary and middle school kids, including special needs kids, register for and attend those sessions. All the sessions involve interactive and hands-on projects intended to teach them STEM skills. This experience is a win-win for all the stakeholders (kids, parents, and community center staff) involved in this process.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

WeMake is a unique model with all these attributes: nonprofit community service platform; completely free to attend; focused on the latest STEM topics and Maker movement; sustainable low cost model and inclusive in nature; enables STEM high schoolers to do meaningful community service; runs on a weekly basis throughout the year at multiple locations. Some institutes teach some of these skills, but they are costly to attend. The majority of community service organizations such as 4-H or Scouts do not focus on STEM, so we propose to propagate the WeMake playbook.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

So far over 1500 kids, especially underprivileged and special needs kids, have been directly benefited from WeMake by learning new STEM skills. Many more benefited indirectly by learning about WeMake activities through social media platforms and from public awards and recognitions. The team has conducted over 200 workshops and volunteered over 5000 hours till date. These workshops will have a lasting impact on their attendees, and will motivate them towards STEM careers and to eventually become driving forces of innovation. Some of the awards and recognitions received will further promote this idea to others. I presented the success story of WeMake at the World Maker Faire 2018. Also, I was recognized by Youth Service America (Sep 2019) and received the NJ State Jefferson Award 2019, “Innovator to Watch 2018” Award from NJ Tech Council, and “STEM Civil leader 2019” from NJ STEM Pathways.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

In the future, we will upgrade our course content to make it more meaningful and impactful, diversify our volunteer base, and expand our audience to more communities, especially in underserved areas. Our future focus will be inclusive STEM oriented towards special needs kids, and we will conduct more workshops for them. We will provide more projects based on Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and 3D printing. Finally, we will coordinate with other STEM advocacy groups to spread the word further and help similar organizations to propagate at other locations. We will approach national 4-H headquarters to promote Maker Clubs and formulate Maker Club operating guidelines for 4-H state centers, so such clubs will sprout at all 4-H centers.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Brand Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Make: Community

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