“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” – Whitney Houston
At Digital Adventures, we are fortunate to be in a position to prepare the next generation to have a big impact using technology as their platform. In the process, they will help make the world a better place for all of us. As we continue to build the business, I thought it would be good to reflect back on why we got started and what helps us sustain the momentum.
Inspired by Kids
Throughout my life, I’ve always enjoyed helping people, especially young people, realize their full potential. As an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I led an Introduction to Engineering course that helped prepare freshmen for success in the College of Engineering. While an engineer at Ford, I became a mentor for Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). This program was designed to expose underrepresented groups to science, technology, engineering and math. When I returned to Chicago a few years ago to join the New Ventures team at Redbox, I began volunteering with Future Founders Foundation. This organization introduces underrepresented groups to entrepreneurial experiences with the goal of creating the next generation of innovative enterprise builders. While working with these organizations as an instructor or mentor, I always felt that I ultimately wanted to spend more of my time, resources and energy on helping developing the intrinsic talent within young people. Each member of our team has a similar commitment and motivation for working with kids. Whether it was Arjun spending time as public school teacher in Chicago Public Schools or Jim leading summer technology camps, we are all deeply humbled by the opportunity to work with kids.
Over the past several years, my kids helped me see that we are still not doing a great job of preparing the next generation for the innovation-based careers of tomorrow. While many kids, mine included, are experts at manipulating an iPad before they even know how read, there are very few who know how to create the hardware & software products that will drive the groundbreaking innovations of tomorrow. So, I decided to do something about it. Initially, I guided my kids through a few projects using Scratch – the simple, yet powerful visual-based programming language—developed at MIT in partnership with the Lego Foundation; they loved them. When I happened to post a few pictures on Facebook of our coding journey, the response was overwhelming. Friends around the country thought it was the coolest thing and wished they could join my kiddos for classes. That’s when I realized that while my engineering and product development background can help prepare my own kids for a technology-based future, there isn’t really a great option for those without a similar background or those who while recognizing the importance don’t have a lot of time to devote to these activities on a continual basis.
Powered by Parents
Having children is a life-changing experience. As the father of 3 children (10 year old daughter, 9 year old son, and 3 year old son), I have developed a firsthand perspective on how important my children are and how as a parent, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that they succeed. This is on the one hand aspirational and on the other hand overwhelming. From sports to arts to STEM and everything in between, there is a smorgasbord of activities that kids can participate in. As parents, it is often our job to try to guide our children to activities that they have a genuine interest and once they’ve started to encourage them to achieve their full potential. At times, this doesn’t quite work out. For example, my son loved soccer. And so, once he was old enough to join a team; we signed him up. Unfortunately, the experience was not a great one and he hasn’t really paid much attention to soccer since then. There are other times, when parents fully connect the dots and it is a thing of beauty. My daughter has always been interested in art. When we went through our 1st few technology projects together, I noticed she really got into the design and the aesthetics of each character. She had found her entry point and has continued to push her design thinking through the avenue of technology.
At Digital Adventures, we’ve been very fortunate to have a great group of parents who have trusted us with their children’s technology journey. They have constantly given us feedback and provided us with suggestions for how we might improve the development of our most precious natural resource – children. They have been patient with us as we work hard to improve our product and deliver continuous improvements to our customer experience. And, they have been overwhelmingly generous in sharing our company with their friends through referrals. For that, we could not be more grateful.
Together our team, along with our parents, will always be the lens through which we make major strategic decisions about how to deliver the best experience for the kids that come to our studios to learn more about the wonderful world of technology.