When we speak to the parents of high school and college students about #STEMinternships, we hear that even younger siblings are interested in STEM activities. With so much available, how can a parent both nurture that interest and decipher the best program for their child?
As an educator connecting students to the Boston tech community, it was my privilege to interview Cyndi Reitmeyer, our trusted advisor and the founder/editor of BostonTechMom. Cyndi is the definitive resource for families on #STEMeducation.
Cyndi, you worked in tech for many years. Why did you decide to start BostonTechMom?
As a business professional working in the Boston startup industry, I saw first-hand the power of technology and its essential role in driving innovation, solving problems, and creating new products and services. I worked closely with scientists and engineers to help commercialize new technologies, which gave me great exposure to a breadth of interesting and important jobs in STEM fields.
I am also a mom to two girls and my oldest expressed an interest in coding and technology at a young age. She attended her first computer camp when she was in elementary school and absolutely loved it and asked to do more. That experience put me on a path to finding other opportunities for her. After a few years, I had the idea for BostonTechMom, so I could share my knowledge and experience searching for STEM programs with other parents who were also looking for activities and programs. BostonTechMom is a passion project for me, and I’ve been building its services and my own knowledge base over the past 6 years. Both families and program providers are finding it helpful, which is inspiring me to continue to expand.
You started BostonTechMom in 2014. How have STEM offerings changed over the years?
During the past 10 years, the range and number of programs have grown and so have the number of program providers. There really is something for everyone today. Learning to code, game development, and robotics have always been very popular, but there’s an increasing number of niche offerings. For example, I’ve recently reviewed and written about programs in artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR), and cybersecurity.
What about programs for girls?
Having two daughters and being a woman in tech, it’s important to me to encourage and support girls and women in STEM. We have made strides in some areas, but it’s not enough. There are so many wonderful organizations that offer STEM programs and support for girls today and they are doing incredible work. In many cases, the programs are free, too! You can get a list of some of the organizations by visiting Resources on my website.
Your website offers a monthly roundup of activities, posts of events and STEM guides. How do you go about doing all this research?
My monthly roundup post focuses on free and affordable STEM activities around Boston and throughout Massachusetts for kids, teens, and families. There are some popular annual STEM events like the Cambridge Science Festival and MIT Splash that I feature every year. I also follow local STEM organizations and look for upcoming events. Finally, organizations often contact me directly to make me aware of their programs and activities.
Can you tell us about your STEM Consulting Services for families?
Parents are welcome to search BostonTechMom’s STEM resources for themselves, and lots of families do that. But for families that are overwhelmed by the volume of resources, aren’t sure how to find the right program, or just don’t have time, I offer personalized consulting services to help Massachusetts families find programs, summer camps, and after-school classes that are a great match for their child’s and teen’s needs and interests.
I enjoy helping parents find programs for their children. I use my professional background, as well as my many years of STEM program research, and add my perspective as a parent who searched for STEM programming for my own daughters. I find that I can save parents time and eliminate the uncertainty of choosing by searching my database with the specific child in mind to find several program options that will match the family’s criteria.I love hearing that a child had a positive experience!
Can you give us an example of a family that you’ve helped?
I hear from parents with children of all ages, interests, and experiences levels. Some parents who contact me have children with no previous STEM experience outside of the classes they’ve taken in school, and others have children with extensive experience or a very specific interest. One high school student that I worked with had a deep interest in math and science and was learning to code. The teen wanted to explore new STEM opportunities before heading to college so they could decide what to study in school. I provided a range of opportunities for both the school year and summer that were focused on conducting scientific research, engineering, and computer science and explained why each program would be a good match for the student.
In this Covid-19 era, how can kids still get involved with STEM?
Before the pandemic, most kids participated in in-person hands-on STEM activities, but once we went into quarantine those kinds of activities were not available anymore. Many STEM organizations have quickly developed curriculum that can be taught online by instructors in a live, virtual environment. In fact, there are quite a lot of options for online STEM camps this summer. There are also many free and fun online educational activities, hands-on projects, instructional resources, and videos that families can explore at home.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy learning about new STEM programs and each organization’s unique approach to teaching STEM. I also like to learn about new advancements in technology, like Artificial Intelligence, and am always pleased to see emerging technologies being applied to programs for K-12 students. It’s so important for kids to get exposure to different STEM fields and disciplines before they head off to college and enter the workforce. Finally, I love hearing directly from parents—especially when they tell me that their child enjoyed a program that they discovered on my website.
About Cyndi Reitmeyer
With over 20 years of experience as a business professional in the consumer products and tech industries, Cyndi Reitmeyer is the founder and editor of BostonTechMom. Cyndi connects parents with high-quality STEM programs that expose kids to technology in fun, meaningful, and engaging ways. BostonTechMom is the go-to resource for STEM opportunities in Massachusetts, focusing on computer programming, robotics, math, engineering, and other science-related subjects in a variety of formats.