Powering your future
by Allan Wang
Two years ago, Adam, Chauncey, and I opened up Kinet-X to our first students. They were looking for a place to learn how to code for a few weeks, but ended up with something more than just a summer spent in a slightly messy room in Queens. Sure they learned to code, but they also soldered for the first time, designed plans for waterproof notebooks, visited Google NYC, and raced solar-powered cars. They were in a random neighborhood in Queens, and they’d been introduced into this crazy and amazing world of STEM. So what started as a way for a few friends to train new members for Stuy’s robotics teams transformed into something more meaningful than we’d ever imagined. And over the past few months, we’ve been wondering, “What’s our next step? What’s our big mission?” As it turned out, the answer was right in front of us. For many, Kinet-X is a fun way to spend your summer, or a summer program to send your kids to make sure they’re not wasting their time. That’s fine - we love teaching all our students, no matter why they’re at Kinet-X! But really, we’re about your future. You are all talented kids with loads of potential, and we want to help you reach that potential by powering your future with STEM.
Powering your future
Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, says that if you plot technological progress on a graph, it looks like an exponential curve, or a hockey stick. What he means is that technological progress started off slowly but now happens at breakneck speed, which has a massive impact on the careers and futures we choose. Half a century ago, most people only expected to go to school, get a white-collar or solid industry job, and work until retirement. 40 years later, Mark Zuckerberg conjured a $500 billion company on his laptop in a college dorm. That was a decade ago. Sharing photos and stalking your ex's online may be very valuable to our society, but it can’t hold a candle to what students are capable of today. There’s a world of possibilities and huge rewards available to any kid who wants to try. We can invent entire cryptocurrencies or shake up artificial intelligence with Stanford professors. But we’re not at the point on the x-axis where change happens at the snap of a finger; machine learning algorithms still take time to learn and write. It’s that training and mentorship that defines our work at Kinet-X, and that’s how we’ll both work on and represent Kinet-X moving forward.
A New Kinet-X
Our programs are different than your typical summer programs. Students should come into Kinet-X, code and build amazing inventions, and never want to leave. We believe Kinet-X is more than just a few weeks you spent in a nicely lit classroom in lower Manhattan, it’s a culture of innovation and creativity that you’re part of for the rest of your life, even if you never attend our programs again.
We’re running four programs this summer. You might look at them, and think, “What are those new tags they’ve latched onto the old names?” They signify the iteration each program is going through. Robotics 2.0 is a revamped, improved, leaner and meaner version of our original robotics program that’s built for anybody - beginner to expert. Advanced 2.0 takes all the best parts of our Python/Arduino program and improves on them, with new experiences like entrepreneurship and more advanced Arduino projects. Starter X is our first clearly defined entry point for older beginners that heavily emphasizes interactive and backend development, while keeping the popular engineering projects. Starter S is our now fourth iteration of the original program we ran in August 2016, vastly improved yet still retaining the fun and explorative experiences of learning STEM for the first time. All the programs are meant for our students to build lasting inventions and learn fundamentals that’ll guide them forever.
We’re also working on building a mentorship network of professional engineers, computer scientists, and professors from top companies and universities. We’re launching a free experience for our students after leaving Kinet-X; the early steps of it are the workshops we’re running in NYC this spring. We’ve added an entrepreneurship aspect to the Advanced 2.0 program that we hope to expand to the others if it’s successful this summer. Yet while we’re revamping and adding so much to Kinet-X, we’re still sticking to the fundamentals that got us here - intense personalized learning, a vast comprehensive curriculum, and a culture that’s open to ideas from anybody.
You might’ve been taken aback when you opened our website for the first time - hopefully you’ll come to like it as much as we do! I sat down a few weeks ago to really think about how we can represent Kinet-X to the world in a way that embodies our mission, and what you’re seeing is the result. Everything from updated typefaces to new color schemes to photography (okay, maybe not all) has been updated to reflect our new look and feel.
In the end, nothing expresses Kinet-X more than the stories of our students and mentors. When we first launched Kinet-X, we had no idea of the people we’d meet and the things they’d accomplish. Then we met Jesse, one of our first students and now king of hackathons, writer of programs to do homework, and expert on security systems. We met Chris and Josh, who continue to astound me with moments of brilliance scattered amongst hours of goofing off. We met Helen, who began our program as a quiet coder and became a trooper who bombarded us with questions then pulled off an amazing website. And we met Jack, who despite his confusing veganism and obsession with “getting help and getting it fast”, writes better websites than almost anyone.
These students, along with all our others, have their own unique experiences, skills, and interests. And yet, they all have the same potential and capability to build, to create, and to make an impact. So together, we’re looking forward to starting the next chapter of this improbable journey with our next big idea - to power the future.