Des Moines, Iowa (April 4, 2022) – Nancy Mwirotsi confesses that she’s a “tech dropout,” but also points to that as one reason she founded Pi515 — a nonprofit focused on introducing girls and boys from different social and socioeconomic backgrounds to technology skills as a way out of poverty.
“It was 20 years ago when I was first learning about technology, and I’d find that I would be the only female in the room,” she explained. “It felt like I was not represented, and the only options I had were data entry or customer service, so I left. It was a lonely journey. For that reason, I understand that having a safe space to create and learn is critical.”
Now, two decades later, a group of students from Pi515 will compete in the final round of the Kids Tech Summit.
The summit is a national competition that encourages students to use their digital skills to develop projects that directly benefit their communities. Pi515 is one of four finalists that will vie for the top prize on April 22.
“Kids often don’t realize how powerful they truly can be, so we encourage them to grow their minds through tech while also helping them learn leadership skills and develop confidence in their abilities,” said Mwirotsi, who serves as Executive Director of Pi515. “The students’ entry in the Kids Tech Summit competition is actually a continuation of our summer innovation class.”
During that initial class, students did individual projects focused on innovating and developing techniques for smart cities. For the Kids The Summit, they’re working together as a group, and focusing on another population often overlooked when it comes to technology — senior citizens.
Creating opportunities for connection
“Isolation during the pandemic has affected many people, but it has increasingly affected seniors,” said Maia Long, Pi515 participant. “Exposing and teaching seniors on how to use technology, like Zoom, will help them to connect with loved ones and the community.”
Pi515 students want to help seniors develop digital literacy skills and learn how to stay safe while online.
“During the pandemic, the Digital Divide exposed huge differences amongst people, and many seniors experienced the largest divide,” said Marlowe Gerhart, Pi515 participant. “It is critical to create tools and opportunities for seniors to safely, efficiently, and confidently navigate the online world. Our generation is uniquely poised to offer these solutions.”
Mwirotsi says choosing to focus on older Americans is a sign that the students are aware of the challenges many of their own family or community members face, now and in the future.
“We all talk about the Digital Divide for young people, but we are clueless about how seniors are being left out,” said Mwirotsi. “If we don’t change that, many seniors will be left out of a future workforce that many are predicting will be almost entirely digital by 2030. During the pandemic, there were so many seniors who didn’t even know how to use Facetime or Zoom, and it left them isolated. These students recognize that they must do something about that.”
The Kids Tech Summit is a friendly competition hosted by national nonprofit Connected Nation (CN) and sponsored by AT&T.
The four finalists, including Pi515, will compete for cash prizes ranging from $7,500 to $2,000. They will present their projects to a panel of technology experts via a virtual event on Friday, April 22, which can be viewed by the public at this YouTube link.
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