Published On: August 2nd, 2022

Dating back to 1862, STEM is a comprehensive umbrella term used to describe curricula emphasizing academic disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

STEM education currently exists in many public and private school systems, with numbers increasing every year. This learning approach aims to increase awareness and interest in STEM-related occupations.

Free Range Kids is a STEM-based learning program that got its beginnings in 1997 when Jason Bittner was pursuing a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Toronto.

As an engineer, Jason wanted to share his passion and what he was learning with the next generation. He wanted them to be able to learn at an early age what engineers do, something that wasn’t customarily part of “regular school” and that might inspire them to consider a career in engineering themselves.

Jason started reaching out to middle schools in Toronto and began “giving back” with hands-on technology classes with students.

Upon graduation and with Jason settling down in Connecticut, he was able to devote more of his time to the Free Range Kids initiative. In 2004, Jason founded Triple Helix Corporation, a privately owned software and information management consulting firm.

The many connections Jason had built in school and in the working world allowed him more opportunities to reach local communities and schools. Funded by Triple Helix Corporation, Free Range Kids was able to expand its curriculum and offer young minds a comprehensive STEM educational experience like never before.

Jason has worked with many middle school age children over the years – and has learned a thing or two over his time working with the kids. He recalls when speaking about technology, girls tend to be more reserved and boys tend to be more vocal. For this reason, Jason has learned it’s effective to separate students into groups of boys and girls.

It’s been shown to lead to a huge increase in engagement. Of course, discussions between boys and girls have many noticeable differences.

Boys seem more interested in how fast technology can go and how much destructive force technology possesses. Whereas girls want to know how we can use technology to be more collaborative and improve the lives of people. “It’s an interesting perspective,” Jason says.

By high school, many students have already decided who they are and their career goals. Through focusing on middle school age children, Jason hopes to reach kids when they are still at a very impressionable age.

There will always be a few students who remain undecided on their career paths until they dip their toes in the water and begin getting real world experience.

For this reason, Jason expects to add future programs for high school and college internship opportunities to Free Range Kids.

So what’s happening with Free Range Kids now? Although a slight hold had to be placed on in-person lessons due to the COVID pandemic, Jason is planning to bring Free Range Kids back in Fall of 2022-2023.

His middle school curriculum currently includes a series of 10 classes scheduled once a month from September to June. Each class is 45-60 minutes in length and covers a variety of topics including: careers in engineering and sciences, 3D printing, computer hardware, robotics, exploration of electronics and more.

Each class is unique, consisting of interactive discussions as well as hands-on demonstrations. Jason is an avid 3D printer and for his classes about 3D printing, he has been known to actually bring in a 3D printer, print something in front of the students and pass it around for them to see. He believes in making education an immersive, learning experience.

So what are Jason’s long term goals for Free Range Kids?

Although the initiative is currently entirely funded by his company, Triple Helix Corporation, Jason hopes to turn the initiative into a nonprofit in the coming years. Being a nonprofit would allow for securing outside sponsors and funding and give the opportunity to grow the program while reaching and inspiring even more young minds to consider pursuing a STEM-based career.

For more information about the Free Range Kids initiative click here:

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About The Author: Jason Bittner

jason bittner

CEO and founder of Triple Helix Corporation, since 2004. For over two decades, Jason has worked closely within the Aerospace/Defense/Manufacturing industries. He excels at solving technical challenges by integrating data and information technologies with best business practices. Jason takes an avid interest in educating his readers with the latest news in information management, as well as providing keen insights into the most efficient methodologies for the best operating companies today and into the future.