In this series, members of the Kids Code Jeunesse (KCJ) team will be interviewing some of the amazing innovators, educators and leaders in our ecosystem. These great minds will discuss education, technology and what the future holds … as well as share stories from their own lives.
In this next installment we hear from Maria Andrusiak, a hybrid Community Developer and Facilitator all-star who is enriching her community of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario with creativity, collaborative learning and digital skills. She caught up with Janvi, who has volunteered with KCJ and shared her youth perspective to ensure we meet the needs of our most important stakeholders: kids and teens.
When we hear about STEAM creators’ successes, we are usually hearing about the moments others defined them as having “arrived”. When introduced to KCJ Youth Advisor Janvi Patel, who began studying at the University of Waterloo in Mechatronics Engineering this fall, someone might think success came easy.
However, innovators are not just born, they are grown. That growth comes from an internal drive that needs to be matched with external support for their inquiring nature.
Janvi (above) and Maria caught up over a video call.
Originally Janvi was interested in health sciences in her high school and CEGEP years. Still, she felt the programs didn't reflect all the things she was interested in. She identified with people who are interested in many different areas, struggling with so-called “imposter syndrome”. She worried that because she didn’t want to focus on one subject area, she would eventually have to sacrifice some of her interests when choosing what to study after high school.
"I had been building things with Legos and making model boats ever since I was young.. I didn’t know how that could be a career. I’ve always been interested in understanding how things fit together.”
Janvi came to robotics accidentally. It was her best friend that convinced her to come along to the school’s robotics club in Grade 6. Simply trying a new thing became the interest that drove her.
"I put in the hours because I loved it".
Those early experiences made her ask herself
"why am I not doing this?"
In grade 9 an introduction to Technovation was where she met Kate, the founder of KCJ, as a mentor. There, she learned that innovators were also regular people of all genders and backgrounds, working day to day to make the world a better place.
A teacher in high school was pivotal to finding the program that matched her, telling her about Mechatronics.
“It’s kind of a fusion between mechanical, software, and electrical engineering. Making things is very cool. In engineering I can ask myself ‘how can I make the world better by building something new.”
Even the brightest lights can struggle to shine.
"Chemistry is not something that comes naturally to me."
Not being good at something helped Janvi realize that if she wanted to learn she could ask for help.
"I don't have to be great at everything. In the future, I'll be working in teams. When we work together our entire field of knowledge gets bigger.”
“An Interest in health science isn't something I’ve lost”
Janvi says. Her interest in robotics has led her to thinking about the intersection of fields and how understanding in more than one area supports and creates new ways to help people.
"In 2030 I don't really have a specific job in mind. I just hope I am creating technology to help people. I’d be interested in bringing together robotics, software, and health to create new innovations."
Far from seeing technology innovation as something for only a privileged few, Janvi sees the possibility for it to be inclusive, and the earlier kids learn about it the more these privileged barriers might come down.
“AI is going to be really prominent. The younger generations will be who develops it. They'll be with it their whole lives."
Janvi is now giving back by mentoring other younger girls as a youth student ambassador. She says she feels accomplishment when she gives another kid what she received.
Already she feels like paying it forward.
“My best friend passed it on. My teachers passed it on. Kate passed it on. Now I get to do the same.”
What does she wish she could tell herself when she was younger?
“Just go for it. Yes it will probably be a little scary. But you'll feel so much better when you just do it. Meeting new people. Trying new things. Yes, being worried you won’t fit in can suck, but you might be amazed by how much you’ll be welcomed.”
Inspired by Janvi’s journey into robotics? Pass on a love for coding to the next generation by making a donation - tax-free! - to Kids Code Jeunesse. Donate here.
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