Geek is the new cool: STEAM education changing what being a geek means
In the movies, kids who excel academically or have particular interests in stuff like science fares and clubs are often called “geeks” or “nerds” – think Peter Parker, Lisa Simpson, or even Marty McFly from Back to the Future. Depicted as socially awkward with less fashionable clothes, young technology enthusiasts have traditionally been seen weird and un-cool by their peers. But that way of thinking is now a case of once upon a time.
Young inventors, internet entrepreneurs, computer programmers, and innovators like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Paige have become household names and made the word geek as the new cool.
The rise of the geeks in popular media and the growing interest in STEAM education in schools across the globe has helped spark young learners’ interests in the fields of Science, Technology, Education, Arts, and Mathematics. It’s now cool to learn 21st century concepts like computer programming for kids, design thinking, robotics, innovation, and 3D printing, among others. In fact, there is a whole “maker” culture happening where technology mixed with online learning, and STEAM skills is empowering kids to create stuff they could only imagine doing a few years back. It’s exciting times!
Many of those kids are now very successful.
Here are some inspiring stories, showcasing some teens making waves in STEAM fields, kicking off their ideas even before they were allowed to drive!
While Nick is now 21 years old, he made our A list after being the youngest person to receive technology venture capital back when he was just 15 years old for his invention, Summly. The young technology genius created the app based on an algorithm that automatically summarizes news articles for smart phones, which he later sold to Yahoo for a reported $30 million dollars. He also received accolades including Wall Street Journal’s “Innovator of the Year,” TIME Magazine’s ‘Time 100’ world’s most influential teenagers, and profiled in “Secrets of Genius” Publication all while being underage.
One of the youngest self-made millionaires, Nick continues to be an internet entrepreneur while finishing his studies at Oxford University where he majors in computer science and philosophy.
It’s a modern-day David vs Goliath story in mobile games, when then 14-year-old Robert displaced the monster hit “Angry Birds” from the number one spot in the gaming charts with his game “Bubble Ball” – the most downloaded free game on Apple’s App in January of 2011. What’s even more impressive about Robert is he made parts of the app in a public library and just used a programming software designed to make coding easy for everyone. In its first two weeks, the app garnered more than a million downloads!
When he was 17, Mark has already launched 11 web-based companies and three foundations, successfully selling a number of them. Now in his early twenties, Mark has great interest in artificial intelligence, believing AI can help people discover breakthroughs in science that will benefit many people.
After travelling the world, Mark took a job at Columbia University’s Center for Decision Sciences, where he uses behavioral science and technology to find solutions to important problems.
On the side he continues to make money from his entrepreneurial endeavors, donating sums to humanitarian aid and research.
Hailing from Malaysia, 16-year-old Inderjit and her team, invented a “Nanny Robot,” designed to see a baby’s status through sound and temperature sensors. Their invention also has activity functions like rocking the baby in a special cradle accessory and sending notifications to the parents when the baby is crying. Inderjit has also won awards in different robotics competitions across the globe. Thanks to her, perhaps future moms can take a break and have a little pampering with Nanny Robot helping out.
Clearly, age is just a number. Being young nowadays definitely doesn’t mean you can’t dream big and make amazing things happen. And with their success, these and other role models like them continue to inspire kids to dream big, explore, tinker, and follow their passions, and maybe even help change the world. Go geek power!