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Teenagers launch technology non-profit
David Woo and Wesley Lau work on creating a robot during one of StudentRND’s workshops this summer. The duo used CDs as wheels for the car.
To Ed Jiang and his friends there was always something missing in the choices they were offered at high school. Deeply interested in learning about technology and getting hands on experience in that field, Jiang spent many of his high school years working with his friends on robots and getting as much exposure as he could to digital and engineering sciences. It wasn’t something they got to do in class, and the club activities only whet their interest. Early this spring, the Sammamish teenager and some friends decided to extend that passion to others, offering an outlet for students interested in learning about technology, but limited by the knowledge or funds to do so. The result, StudentRND, is a nonprofit organization Jiang runs which aims to fill that void. “We aim to inspire kids to learn more about science,” said Jiang. The idea really came about after working with robots, he said. In those projects the students were working toward a predefined goal, but there weren’t many opportunities for them to simply play with the technology. “Some of us wanted to do our own projects,” Jiang said. “We wanted to do things just to do them. Technology seems to get pushed to the side.” The organization is developing two types of programs, a workshop where students can come to get the tools and research to work on their own projects and the community outreach side to let the wider public know about StudentRND. While the organization only has been registered as a nonprofit since April, Jiang said over the summer they’ve started doing workshops and planning for the fall. Approximately 35 people have already participated in workshops, he said. “My philosophy is people come because they want to. We don’t tell anyone when they have to come,” said Jiang. Students who have come to the StudentRND workshops are working on a variety of projects, Jiang said, including one who is working on an iPhone application. Jiang said the organization has helped that student by purchasing the book on how to create the application and filling out paperwork with Apple. Jiang said without purchasing the book the student would have to wait months to get it from the library. The organization is just another outlet for students, on the same level as the skate park in Sammamish. Previously there was no place for students to go to get hands on time with technology. Plus, Jiang said, it’s an expensive hobby. “Not every parent wants to fund it. Technology is expensive,” he said. Over the next year Jiang said he hopes the organization can find an office space somewhere so they can expand the offerings and number of people who can participate. He said they also hope to set up tours of tech companies in the area as sort of a career services opportunity for students to see what working in the field is really like. For the rest of the summer Student RND will also have booths at local farmer’s markets to get the word out. Currently, the organization is funding by Jiang and donations from generous parents, but they are actively seeking sponsorships and hope to work with local corporations. Info: www.studentrnd.org.