Young people who want to enrich their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills, but are unable to participate in costly programs, can check out A Step Ahead, a youth-run nonprofit organization offering free workshops in STEM subjects, such as coding, robotics and web development.
The founders of A Step Ahead are students who live in Santa Clara.
“We founded the organization during the summer of 2020, and we started recruiting classmates and other STEM enthusiasts in our community to work with us on educating and tutoring students in the STEM field,” said Nirathi Cherukuri, 16, co-founder of A Step Ahead. “We want to effectively teach our students the basics of STEM topics, including programming, robotics, engineering and science. We aim to train students to apply such skills in their future in the real world. We teach these topics to students ages five to 14.”
“Rather than posting an online calendar, we have those interested in our workshops fill out a contact form on our website so they will get on our mailing list,” Nirathi continued. “Then those who sign up for updates will receive emails about upcoming workshops.”
“We are also looking into reaching underprivileged students who may not have the same opportunities as students who have more access to the internet,” said Sahithi, Nirathi’s sister and A Step Ahead co-founder. “We hope to help these students take a step ahead in their careers.”
“Since 2020, we have hosted over 10 STEM workshops across the country,” said A Step Ahead Co-Founder Pranav Subbarayan, 16. “Through these workshops, A Step Ahead reached over 500 students across five different countries, including the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, India and Sri Lanka. We recently started a YouTube channel so students can watch our workshops at their own pace.”
So far, most of A Step Ahead’s STEM workshops have been virtual. The workshops’ hands-on approach allows students to perform tasks rather than simply listen to a lecture. Usually, students just need access to Zoom and a given website to participate in the workshops.
“We start a workshop by giving a quick introduction to a real world topic we will cover,” Nirathi said. “Then we instruct students on a variety of concepts within the larger topic. For example, one of our workshops is about web development. The concepts would include designing titles, embedding images or videos or user interaction.”
The founders of A Step Ahead are planning lessons to help students be more competitive in STEM-related categories, such as robotics.
“The main thing we have offered so far are mentoring programs for students interested in robotics and competitions,” Nirathi said. “In the future, we are looking to create in-person robotics sessions. Students will focus on creating hardware and a model for their robot with introductory robotics skills.”
“In addition to the hardware aspects, we’d like our students to learn software to code their robots in several different programming languages, such as Python and Java,” Subbarayan said.
Pranav Golla, Manomay Saggeri and William Ou are local students who work with the co-founders at A Step Ahead.