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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT student hosts coding, robotics summer camps for middle schoolers

Lorianne Willett
Angelica Sharma poses for a portrait in the GDC on Monday.

When Angelica Sharma was in 10th grade, her robotics team shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With little to do at home and a love for computer science, she started hosting online workshops to teach elementary and middle school kids how to code. When the workshops were a resounding success, Sharma founded STEMkidz and began hosting annual summer camps for middle schoolers. 

Now a computer science junior at UT, Sharma has expanded STEMkidz. In 2023, STEMkidz received a grant from the LaunchPad at UT and won $20,000 after placing first at McCombs’s annual Freed Family Pitch Competition. Offering two types of four-day camps – a coding camp, where students learn computer basics and how to code in Python, and a robotics camp, where students learn C++ and build their own robot – STEMkidz’s next round of summer camps will begin July 15 in both Sharma’s hometown of Katy and at UT’s Flawn Academic Center.

“The whole purpose of STEMkidz is really building the foundation of coding and robotics,” Sharma said. “I feel like it’s something everyone should know because coding is going to a place where all fields are using it.”

Sharma said STEMkidz is unique because it provides a comprehensive introduction to computer science from both a hardware and software perspective, incorporates college-level material from UT coursework into the curriculum and guides students in building real Arduino-based robots, rather than Lego bots. Sharma said she strives to make complex concepts accessible for middle schoolers, emphasizing interactivity and learning-by-doing.

“(Other kids) should definitely do this camp, because it’s really good at starting out with Python,” said Timi Filatei, who attended a STEMkidz coding camp. “It’s not like they’re just telling you what to do and then you have to do it. They’re explaining it step-by-step.”

Tiffany Kim, a student at Cinco Ranch High School who has taught with STEMkidz for the past two years, said she enjoys working with her students.

“When they get personal with me and share their stories is when I think I have the most joy,” Kim said. “I get to learn more about what middle schoolers these days do, and I really just enjoy the process of making new friendships and seeing them become really close throughout the camp.”

Sharma said she strives to build relationships with her students and hopes to foster lifelong mentorship. She said many of her former students reached out to her years later.

One student went on to found his own organization that offers free PSAT/SAT help and math tutoring,” Sharma said in an email. “Another one of my students became an ambassador, tutor, and club founder for a STEM Career Development program.

Sharma said she hopes to make STEMkidz more self-sustaining as she expands into more cities, develops more curriculums and branches out into different age groups. In the long term, she said she hopes to offer learning opportunities for kids in all fields of STEM.

“I really like seeing the impact that it has on kids,” Kim said. “Seeing those changes, and knowing that this camp and I can be a cause for (a) student to gain interest in computer science and possibly go into (it) in the future is something that is really cool to me.”

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About the Contributor
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.