Fredericksburg Parent

October 2017

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10 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • October 2017 Rebecca Thompson: Executive Director for the Engineering For Kids Foundation WRITTEN BY AMANDA DANAHER When Woodbridge native Rebecca Thompson began working for Engineering For Kids (EFK) in 2015, she rec- ognized the vital role EFK played in the future of the sci- ence, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. "With the lack of students graduating with STEM degrees, employers are struggling to find employees with the required knowledge to fill their jobs," said Thompson. EFK was founded in 2009 as a way to offer STEM-related classes, camps and workshops to children between the ages of 4 to 14. The aim is to introduce children to STEM at an early age with the hope that they will later pursue a career in STEM. "With the role technology now plays in everyone's lives, it's so important for children to learn about STEM fields at an early age," Thompson added. "I hadn't even considered taking an engineering course in high school. It was intimidating. In my mind, engineering was hard, but had I taken a program like Engineering For Kids when I was younger, I might have had a different understanding and felt less intimidated." In 2014, EFK launched the Engineering For Kids Foundation, EFK's charitable branch based in Fredericksburg, as a way to offer free STEM- related opportunities to children who are not able to afford the programs and are less likely to go to college and pursue degrees in STEM. Today, as the executive director of the Foundation, Thompson typically can be found developing and overseeing fundraising events, writing grants, updating the website, creating marketing materials and more. More impor- tantly, she oversees the Foundation's mentorship program, which pairs chil- dren with high school students who are already involved in STEM. profi le "They [mentors and mentees] work side-by-side on a robot- ics engineering class over the course of six weeks after school," Thompson said. "By incorporating mentors in the traditional program, not only is the child being exposed to engineering programs in a fun, hands-on way for free, they are also forming a bond with someone a little older than them who is already interested in engineering." EFK was franchised in 2011 and now boasts 181 locations in 34 countries allowing the Foundation to offer free pro- grams all over the world, impact- ing over 1,200 children since its founding, said Thompson. All of the Foundation's mentor- ship programs are funded by sponsorships and donations received from companies and individuals. Thompson now lives in Spotsylvania with boyfriend, Chris, their two dogs, Tank and Jax, 10 fish and a pet snake.

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