“The students were literally running to get here when STEM Lingo was in session,” says Jason Pense, Computer Science teacher at Yeatman-Liddell Middle School. “That doesn’t happen very often!” Now in his 22nd year with Yeatman, Pense is consistently looking for hands-on, practical applications of computer science that will get kids excited about design and development, and STEM Lingo checked the boxes, he says.
Fifteen of Pense’s students enrolled in the weeklong STEM Lingo program, which was provided and presented by Little Bit, with support from STEM Board and GDIT. “Since this was our first year in the program, I was able to learn along with the students, and Little Bit was terrific in guiding us through,” he says.
First rolled out in the Riverview Gardens School District in 2021, Little Bit brought STEM Lingo to about 90 students in six middle schools and high schools this school year. Five Little Bit staff members are trained in the program. Created by Aisha Bowe, a Bahamian-American aerospace engineer and founder of STEM Board, STEM Lingo introduces students to the principles and “lingo” of coding through kits they use to build functional prototypes.
“There are three modules they’re working through during the week, which get incrementally more difficult,” says Maura Hampton, Little Bit’s Director of Programs. There’s “In the Driver’s Seat,” in which students design a backup sensor for a Tesla using microcontrollers and sensors, followed by “Music through Movement” that enables them to create music through their sensor, and finally, “Reaction Time,” a game they design that incorporates several tech concepts and skills.
“What’s great is that STEM Lingo is self-paced, so there’s no pressure on students to keep up with others,” says Pense. “But they all wanted to work through it together, so the ones that were getting it faster were helping the others, which was really cool to see.”
Hampton says part of the program is educating students about how they can take the principles they’ve learned out into the real world. “William (Hardrick, Little Bit’s Senior Program Manager of College and Career Readiness) will pull up reports on all the careers connected to coding and the demand for professionals with coding skills. It’s pretty eye opening,” she says.
“We also love to share Aisha’s story,” says Hampton. Bowe has said that if she’d followed her guidance counselor’s advice, she would have become a cosmetologist. Instead, she decided to change her life by pursuing engineering at 18, eventually becoming an award-winning NASA engineer. “It’s really inspiring for them to hear how she broke down barriers as a minority woman in the field of engineering. We want them to think about and believe in what they can accomplish, in whatever field they choose.”