By Leah Coppella

Carleton youth outreach organization Virtual Ventures (VV) – a not-for-profit run by the Faculty of Engineering and Design – has been awarded $80,000 in funding through NSERC’s PromoScience program.

Known for its dynamic and innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) focused camps, clubs, workshops, and school programs across the Ottawa region, VV’s outreach initiatives reach more than 5,000 children and youth annually ranging from junior kindergarten to Grade 12. Since 1994, VV has been providing hands-on experiences in areas such as computer programming, robotics, electronics, animation, video game design, and web development.

Christine Riddell, Director of VV, says this new funding will allow the organization to strengthen its programming for underrepresented groups in STEM, including young women and girls, at-risk and low-income youth, and Indigenous youth.

“Given the current situation, we’ve been taking this opportunity to rethink and restructure our programs to offer them remotely,” Riddell says.

“We first began adapting our outreach in early March, such as offering online workshops with girl guide troupes, and we’re continuing to deliver a number of programs virtually.”

VV will apply its new NSERC funding towards expanding and enhancing programs which have been specially developed with traditionally underrepresented groups in mind, such as through increasing program capacities, delivering free programs, and providing discounts and bursaries.

“Our previous PromoScience grant, which was focused on women and girls in STEM, really allowed us to expand and grow those areas of our programming,” says Riddell. “We’re excited that NSERC continues to offer its support as we broaden our focus to reach many more girls, at-risk youth and Indigenous youth that all share a collective love for STEM.”

For girls, VV will continue providing all-female summer camps for aspiring engineers and scientists led by Carleton students. VV’s newest summer camp addition, an all-girls aerospace camp called She’s Fly, launched last summer to great success.

For Indigenous youth, programs will be led by local elders and knowledge keepers, as well as other Indigenous youth and Carleton students. In partnering with Thompson Island Cultural Camp in Akwesasne, where VV’s InSTEM Land Camp is hosted every summer, VV has developed content that merges Western STEM and Traditional Knowledge. VV also plans to add a second Land Camp location in the future.

For low-income and at-risk youth, VV aims to expand opportunities for students to develop digital literacy skills. Having partnered with Shopify and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, a joint program known as Linked<ed> now provides programming to suit each individual clubhouse’s needs and experience levels.

As remote and virtual learning continues to evolve, Riddell notes that VV is also taking time to listen to the community.

“We’re all working at this together,” she says. “Getting feedback and opinions from participants, teachers, parents, and educators is extremely valuable in helping us provide the most rewarding programs that we can.”

Monday, June 1, 2020 in , , ,
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