EDC thanks guest blogger Asim Williams, head technology leader coach at Google Code Next, for sharing Code Next’s work in Detroit in this post. EDC has been proud to serve as Google’s evaluation partner for Code Next, which works with high schoolers to cultivate the next generation of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous tech leaders.
I walk into The Factory at Corktown. Like many beautiful 19th-century wood timber and masonry buildings in Detroit, the building had nothing to do with cars when it was built. Back in 1907, The Factory housed hosiery and knitting milling manufacturers.
In 2023, The Factory now has Ford autonomous vehicle (AV) and electric vehicle (EV) business teams, prototypers, and a playground for Detroit high school students to explore the world of STEAM. The playground is a Google Code Next Lab that helps kids find their STEAM interest, increase their skill in STEAM, and build community with others who share those interests. If you get lost searching for the playground, just follow the sounds of the electric guitar to find us.
I am the students’ head coach, Asim Williams, and as I walk up the stairs I hear the reverberation through the wood floor and its joists of hurried steps and chairs being arranged for the meeting. It’s game time.
1. Effectively communicate to over 20 Google vice presidents why allocating resources to increasing social capital in Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities by cultivating high school students from those communities to become technology leaders is worthwhile
2. Inspire sponsorship
My teammates and I host groups of VPs and expound the amazing stories of the kids we serve and the progress they’ve made in their technical and leadership skills. As I describe a mechanical latch prototype that our resident mad student scientist Rex made, I note the only Black VP in the group, Yale. When we break for lunch, I introduce myself and ask to schedule a one-on-one meeting.
Before our meeting, I google Yale, as one does, and find a YouTube video from 2011. Immediately, I flash back to being 12 years old, sitting in my room reading electrical engineering textbooks and tinkering with a SparkFun Arduino1 kit by lamp light. I read textbooks because I liked the way the sentences sounded. Desiring inspiration and guidance, I watched “day in the life” YouTube videos of engineers. I then realize that Yale was one of the engineers I used to watch. A few weeks later when we meet, I tell him that story and share what I aspire to contribute to the world. He gives me advice and tells me to keep him updated.
When I was a 12-year-old Black boy looking for STEM mentorship and guidance, I looked to YouTube and found Yale. Unfortunately, I did not master the Arduino. Between football practice, school, and GTA 5 online, I only tinkered with it a handful of times before putting it down. But I always knew I belonged in the world of STEM. Today, I find myself in it through Code Next.
In Code Next, we help youth define who they are, what makes them remarkable, where they see themselves making an impact, and how they can make it. A key part of our mission is to empower youth to journey through college, career, and life identifying as culturally aware solutionists capable of engineering, making, and leading their universe.
Integral to that is having a mentor. A coach. Someone to inspire, guide, instruct, manage, assess, and navigate. Someone who will allow breaks when needed but who always has you pick the Arduino back up because you need it to realize your dream robot that makes the world a better place.
I write this post in the middle of preparing to teach an Arduino robotics club to our Code Next engineers—filled with pride and gratitude that I can be for them what I did not have. One, a person they see regularly who looks like them and knows what an Arduino is. And two, a person who makes sure that they persevere and continue to pick the Arduino up. It is an honor to be that person to the kids I serve.
|Asim Williams is a coach, inventor, explorer, humanitarian, and musician. His mission is to be a part of teams that invent technology and music through entrepreneurship that universally improves fundamental aspects of life. At Code Next, he educates his future teammates!