The MidWest Tech Project partnered with Grand Circus, a tech education organization that offers coding “bootcamps” and other education opportunities, and Grand Rapids Community College’s John Rumery to put on their first VIP Alternative Spring Break event. During this amazing trip, we bussed down with 20 young African American and Latino men to Detroit, MI, to tour multiple technology hubs.
The first stop in Detroit was a VIP tour given by Quicken Loans. The kids got to see the “Executive” floor of Quicken Loan’s headquarters, Rocket Fiber, and a few other companies owned by Quicken Loans. It was exciting to hear Quicken Loans talk about ways they are working to transform Detroit into a technology hub in order to keep tech talent local!
Next, we went back to Grand Circus so that the kids and chaperones could refuel with lunch and do a little bit of coding! The kids got a chance to code in HTML and CSS.
After stomachs were full, we headed to Bamboo Detroit, a coworking space that helps entrepreneurs get started and gives them a place to work. While on the tour, we had the opportunity to watch entrepreneurs practice a pitch for their mobile application. That was excellent unplanned exposure for everyone to see!
Next up was a tour of the Madison building, an old theater that was transformed into a collaborative tech hub. The kids were very excited about this building because of the free slushies and popcorn! While touring, we got the opportunity to talk with Ash & Erie, a company that competed on ABC’s Shark Tank. The kids got to have a small Q&A with them and hear more about their experience on Shark Tank. Again, excellent unplanned exposure. This tour ended up on the roof, where we all got amazing views of Comerica Park. The last stop was a tour of Grand Circus.
Exposure is one of the first steps to getting more kids interested in tech. Trips like this give us the opportunity to show students a variety of companies and give them the opportunity to interact with different professionals in tech. Without the help of volunteers and sponsors, this exposure may come much later in life or not at all. The more people and companies involved, the more kids we can help expose to these fun, creative, high-energy environments.
Seeing all of the different opportunities there are to get involved in the Michigan tech industry was inspiring for the students and chaperones alike, as was seeing first-hand the tech growth that has been happening in Detroit. Giving kids the opportunity to see opportunities like this without having to travel across the country lowers the barrier to entry just a little bit. We all left Detroit feeling inspired and excited for what is coming in the next few years for tech in Michigan!