Funded by the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s STEMUp program, three students from schools in the Greater Atlanta area built prototypes of unique STEM-related applications to better their communities.

In March, middle and high school students competed in a “Shark Tank”-style STEMUp contest, explaining their ideas to a panel of judges from Cox Enterprises with the hope of receiving up to $2,500 to expand on their research. On July 25, the first, second, and third place winners — Roshan Kolachina, Noah Kim, and Cailyn Clarke, respectively — presented their final products in a celebration at Cox. 

Kolachina developed an app to encourage sustainable eating, highlighting the research that went into its implementation in his presentation. The app, which calculates the user’s carbon footprint based on their diet, is meant to encourage adjustments in one’s day-to-day eating habits. Kolachina emphasized that if everyone made slight changes to their diets to lower their individual carbon footprint, the effects would be seen on a mass scale. 

Kim, whose goal was to increase student achievement in academia and extracurricular activities, explained how he improved an existing rewards system for students in his school. His reward system allows students to set their own goals and receive points for completing them, which can then be traded in for prizes. 

Clarke’s idea was a standout; she developed an app, “Aremina 2.0,” to encourage young Black girls like herself to code. At only 11 years old, she is a shining example of how equity in education brings more diverse candidates into the otherwise male-dominated field of computer and engineering jobs

A child holding a certificate

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Cailyn Clarke

Introduced to coding in one of her sixth-grade classes, she took an instant liking to it. “The teacher saw how fast I finished [the assignment],” she explained, “It was easy. So I started helping other kids.”

Clarke’s mother expressed confidence that her daughter will take her skills to the next level, “I can definitely see her doing [coding] in the future.”

When exposure to STEM-related subjects is reserved for certain schools, the pool of potential candidates to fill STEM-related jobs is limited to specific demographics that leave Black girls like Clarke on the outside of opportunity. Because these jobs are often high-paying, this disparity has economic consequences. 

According to the latest data from United Way’s 2023 Child Well-Being Outlook: Insights for Impact Report, Greater Atlanta is home to nearly 14,000 opportunity youth — people between the ages of 16 and 19 who fall outside of both college and career pipelines. Programs like STEMUp are imperative in creating an alternative pathway to success where every student is given the opportunity to explore their strengths.As part of their Child Well-Being Initiative, United Way is dedicated to expanding college and career pathways for teens and young adults. They can’t continue this important work without your support. Join them in unlocking the potential of children, families, and communities today by donating to the Child Well-Being Fund.

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