How a teen’s passion for science and technology is empowering kids to learn
Niamani Knight is a fiercely driven high school junior, with a contagious smile and a passion for technology that she hopes will catch on. Knight’s goal is to make learning to code and working with technology not only cool, but easy for anyone to understand.
“Getting more girls involved is one of my key targets,” said Knight. “I think it’s very important for students to see other students doing things and coming alongside of each other and boosting one another up and essentially encouraging each other.”
Knight advocates for Code.Org’s global “Hour of Code” every chance she gets, especially when she's inside classrooms speaking to students. The idea is that kids catch on when they hear from someone who looks like them and is passionate about a topic they might otherwise find confusing.
“Hour of Code, I would explain as basically a virtual interactive learning experience for students through coding,” said Knight. “In some areas, it gets students that would not otherwise have that access and exposure to code, and in a very fun way.”
Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries. It is typically held in December during Computer Science Education Week and utilizes short, simple programming tutorials designed so that anyone can take part. Amazon has teamed up with Code.Org for its 2017 Seattle event, and invited Knight to come to the Amazon headquarters in Seattle to address the more than 400 students. At the same time, Amazon teams including Amazon Future Engineer, AWS Educate and Alexa will welcome hundreds of students to Amazon offices across the U.S.
“We have a diversity issue in the industry that we're trying to fix,” said Shameeka Emanuel, with Amazon Future Engineer. “Niamani is really encouraging more young girls to say, ‘this is something that I can choose to do when I grow up.’”
Emanuel has become a mentor to Knight, who has taken her own love of coding one step further to found the S.T.R.E.A.M. Kids Expo. STREAM emphasizes science, technology, reading, engineering, arts, and manufacturing, and links students and industry experts together for interactive learning events.
“All the learning is hands-on, fun and educational,” said Knight. “Kids are able to build paper airplanes and see the different angles, see how far they go, kind of test these things. Get kids really thinking about the opportunities that they have in the future.”
Knight’s program is a Code.Org success story in its own right. Knight, who always enjoyed math and science, says her own interest was sparked in middle school by an energetic and creative science teacher. Today, the California teenager isn’t just passionate about computers for her own future, she’s devoted to spreading the word to other students.
“She's the future,” said Emanuel, who hopes to one day work with Knight. “Amazon is a place where we bank on that.”
Learn about how Amazon and Code.org are teaming up for the global Hour of Code week.