Inspiring kids to use STEM for good—Q & A with social media star Kitboga
For Computer Science Education Week, social media star Kitboga teamed up with global STEM education nonprofit FIRST to show K-12 students how they too can use their powers for good. Kitboga hosted FIRST’s Twitch feed to chat live with students and fans about how the STEM skills they learn today can empower them to stand up for what’s right and make a difference in the world.
Diversity in STEAM Magazine (DISM) recently had the opportunity to ask Kitboga about his interest in STEM for kids.
Kitboga has become a vigilante when it comes to scam baiting, using tech skills, secret identities and wit to toy with and then take down scammers and hackers.
DISM – What inspired you to join the STEM movement?
Kitboga – My parents did a fantastic job of giving me opportunities to explore the world around me and pursue learning. Whether it was backyard catapults, converting a riding lawn mower into a go-kart, or helping us reinstall Windows when we broke the family computer, my parents were there. At this point, I would almost say I’m addicted to learning. I absolutely wouldn’t be who I am today without this passion and I believe experiences like FIRST (a global education nonprofit that fuels kids’ interest in STEM through robotics-based challenges), home science experiments, the Boy Scouts, and having an encouraging family environment surrounding me set the foundation. Sadly, not everyone has the same opportunities I had as a child, but organizations like FIRST help bridge the gap.
Now as a father and online influencer, I want to help provide experiences for the younger generation that inspire them to try new things, learn from their mistakes, and pursue things they’re passionate about.
DISM – Why do you think it is important for the younger generation to get a head start in STEM?
Kitboga – I think one of the most incredible parts about us as a species is our capability to explore and contemplate things that we know very little about. We’ve learned so much in our short time on Earth, but it seems as though we’ve only just begun in terms of what kind of technological advancements will come next. If we don’t encourage our students to push boundaries in STEM, who knows what inventions and discoveries we’ll miss out on.
It’s also important to mention that STEM is in every single industry and will only continue tobecome more prevalent as time goes on. I can’t think of a field that doesn’t benefit from advancements in STEM, or a single industry that doesn’t need a programmer, for example. I suppose STEM and loving to learn will help you help the world around you and make you valuable when it comes time to start your own family or career.
DISM – We know you spent the day building a “meme-o-meter” with young students involved in robotics, can you tell us a little more about that?
Kitboga – On my Twitch channel I spend a significant amount of time talking to scammers – people who take advantage of not-so-tech-savvy individuals, for example. Sometimes I try to include some humor and lighten the mood with jokes or start rambling about a nonsensical story to waste the scammer’s time. My community watching live will start to “spam” an emoticon:
This fills up a gauge over time and alerts me that I might be being a little too silly and the scammer might catch on to what I’m doing.
FIRST reached out about doing a project together and had the idea to recreate this in physical form. It was an incredible experience working with different technologies that I have never used before. We 3D-printed the “needle,” used Raspberry PI to interface with a servo and other parts, and coded a IRC chat bot in Python, to name a few.
Throughout the livestream I made some mistakes and learned a lot. I’m hoping it inspired some people to try projects like this on their own, or maybe even look into joining an organization like FIRST near them.
DISM – What is one thing you would tell students who are looking to pursue STEM?
Kitboga – Don’t let a fear of making mistakes stop you from diving into STEM. When I was younger, I was so afraid to “mess up” or fail when I was learning. Now I see each “mistake” as an opportunity to learn and know it’s going to make the next project or next path of my life better. So start pursuing STEM today and don’t worry if you are not “good at it” at first, it’s all part of the fun of it!