When its popular after school robotics programs had to be temporarily shelved during Covid-19 school closures, TechPoint Foundation for Youth quickly shifted gears to support remote learning instead. The nonprofit distributed hundreds of Chromebooks and nearly 300 Mobile Citizen hotspots to help Indiana schools keep underserved students connected and engaged.

Introducing Underserved Kids to STEM

One of the best ways to get students to tackle tough subject matter is to make it fun, and what’s more fun than playing with robots? Indiana-based TechPoint Foundation for Youth certainly agrees. Since 2001, the nonprofit has invested in robotics educational programs to nurture kids’ love of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Growth in STEM careers has dramatically outpaced overall employment growth over the past three decades. What’s more, the earning potential for those in STEM professions is higher than in non-stem jobs. TechPoint Foundation’s mission is to inspire Indiana’s underserved and underrepresented K-12 students—our future engineers, coders, and scientists—to explore the promise of STEM careers.

In our tech-driven world, the demand for math and science-minded professionals will only get stronger, and TechPoint Foundation for Youth wants to make sure every student in Indiana has equal opportunity to succeed.

From Robotics to Remote Learning

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the foundation to pivot, temporarily, away from its traditional in-person STEM programming. But the team was determined to continue supporting kids and teachers, especially those in underfunded or underserved school districts. Jamie Inskeep, a teacher for 16 years with a passion for STEM education, came on board as Director of Programs at the end of 2020. Her first objective? To help TechPoint Foundation for Youth assess how and where they could help the most students through the challenges of remote learning.

“Connectivity is a serious issue in rural Indiana,” Inskeep explained. In fact, studies indicate as many as 100,000 Indiana students lack computers or home internet access. Emergency funding and grant programs didn’t stretch far enough in 2020 to close the gaps. “Even when schools had enough devices to go around, the connections weren’t always there to make them useful at home.”

Devices and Wi-Fi Hotspots

Inskeep helped TechPoint Foundation narrow in on nine school districts with the highest needs based on economics, demographics, and broadband availability. The nonprofit called this new mission “Technology Education Access Comes Home”, or TEACH. Through the TEACH initiative, they distributed 847 devices between the nine school districts, including 290 Mobile Citizen Wi-Fi hotspots.

Mobile Citizen provides affordable mobile internet services with 4G LTE and up to 5G speeds exclusively to schools, nonprofits, and social welfare agencies nationwide on the Sprint, now part of T-Mobile network. The low flat-fee pricing appealed to TechPoint Foundation, as did the coverage.

“Mobile Citizen’s internet service reached all the corners of our rural state that we needed it to,” said Inskeep, “and they made it really simple for us to get the hotspots out to our schools.”  Most importantly, Mobile Citizen’s affordable wireless internet and unlimited data helped the TechPoint Foundation team make the biggest impact possible with its dollars. “By our estimate, about 6,000 students benefitted,” Inskeep concluded.

Homework Gaps

The fact that kids are back in the schoolroom now doesn’t mean they no longer need internet at home. Inskeep likes the fact that administrators at the nine school districts can choose to renew their contracts directly with Mobile Citizen after their TechPoint Foundation-funded service contracts are up. That way the districts can keep their Wi-Fi hotspots in circulation and prevent old homework gaps from opening back up.

Affordable internet from Mobile Citizen helps schools bridge gaps in home internet access to create a more equitable learning environment for all students. It can also be used to enhance staff productivity, power charter school education, and support all types of mobile study needs and remote programs. To explore opportunities for your school, please contact our experts in the Mobile Citizen Customer Service Center at 877-216-9603.

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