As one of the pioneers of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiatives for disabled youth, WizKidz Science and Technology Centers developed the S.T.E.A.D.Y Academy initiative to spark and enhance students' with disabilities interest in science and technology education, two areas that fall short for servicing students with disabilities. By collaborating with some of the nations top educational institutions and industry professionals that cater to students with disabilities, the initiative will provide hands-on learning experiences through after school, Saturday, andsummer camp programs. The S.T.E.A.D.Y Academy services youth from elementary-high school. These student populations include visual impairments, orthopedic impairments, and neuro developmental disorders. The S.T.E.A.D.Y Academy seeks to create a nationwide movement that incorporates non-traditional teaching methods that prepare students with disabilities for long-term college and career readiness by focusing on STEM.
The overachieving goal of the S.T.E.A.D.Y Academy initiative is to expose students with disabilities to STEM and to introduce these students to mentors working in these fields. The students take part in accessible and innovative activities to include computing, robotics, biology, and more. In addition, the Academy will offer internships and mentoring opportunities for high school participants with educational and industry collaborators. Corresponding workshops and tool-kits will be offered to provide teachers, instructors and parents with the tools and knowledge that they need to help their child succeed in STEM within the classroom.
S.T.E.A.D.Y ACADEMY GOALS
Primary Goals of the S.T.E.A.D.Y Academy are to:
Encourage K-12 school students with disabilities to explore careers involving Science and Technology through accessible STEM driven learning
Recruit and Retain students with disabilities through the implementation of a nationwide network of STEM driven camps and workshops/
Extend the concept of STEM Learning Resources nationally by developing and making accessible teacher training kits to enable incorporation of students with disabilities in the classroom environment.
In 2007, WizKidz was one of three organizations nationwide to develop robotics and computing programs for visually impaired youth and has
collaborated with the Human-Automation Systems Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology (http://humanslab.ece.gatech.edu/) to host a series of robotics camps nationally, (with funding derived from such sources as NASA, Exxon-Mobil, Proctor and Gamble, and NSF). Over 1500 minority, women,
and students with disabilities have been involved in these camps over the past 8 years. In 2010, these camps were expanded to include children with
motor impairments and children from the mild to moderate spectrum of Autism. These initiatives have had a profound impact on the students who have participated. Participating students have gone to receive awards from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Award
for Aspirations in Computing, selected for the Motorola App design challenge, taken first place in the 2012 Georgia Regional Botball challenge, gained acceptance in the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST) in which US News and World Report ranks GSMST #2 Charter School in the Nation, and #1 High School in Georgia. Past participants have also participated in internship opportunities at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Morehouse College.