OKLA. CITY —
In recent years there has been much written about how American students are falling behind their counterparts in Asia and other locales in the area of academic achievement and what that achievement gap means for the US economy.
Much of the discussion is focused on the academic fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
The acronym STEM is often used by academicians and commentators who write about the dilemma and the possible steps that could be taken to improve American students’ performance in those areas.
One place where that problem is being positively addressed in the Oklahoma City area is the “Techjoynt” center off of the Northwest Highway. That facility, which is an engineering and technology academy, seeks to foster interest in those fields by allowing young people to build and program computer games and use robotic devices.
The facility’s founder, engineer and Edmond resident Ray Shaik, describes it as a “YMCA of technology.” Techjoynt offers after-school programs in video game design and robotics for students from age 9-18.
In the program for teenagers, the students may build a Lego robot that can move small objects and create a user manual for it. Techjoynt also offers what is known as the “mobile STEM lab” that can be brought to schools and other locations that includes 30 laptops that can be used by students. Shaik reports that that lab is currently being brought to several schools in the Oklahoma City area.
The Boy Scouts now has a total of eight merit badges that can be won by computer related tasks and Shaik says that he has helped some students obtain those badges.
The facility has a young man on staff, Bryan Sekine, who teaches students the art of computer game design. Techjoynt has attracted the attention of many students who have shown an aptitude for computers and during the recent three-day snow holiday for Oklahoma school students its work stations were manned by young people armed with computer parts and Lego equipment.
Techjoynt also offers training in underwater robotics. Students from Techjoynt have participated in national competitions on robotics. Shaik believes that robotics are the next wave of technology that will soon become part of daily life for many Americans, just as cell phones and Ipads have. He envisions a time in which a small robot will be found in homes where they will direct the operations of household appliances such as dishwashers and clothes washers and dryers.
Shaik also believes that some of the young people who can be found at Techjoynts work station may play a role in the development of such robotic technology.
William F. O’Brien is an Oklahoma City attorney.