My name is Radina Khalid, and I am studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan where education was a priority for my family. I learned multiple languages and discovered my inclination towards the sciences. When I was seven, I moved to Houston, Texas. Being Pakistani-American, I have had the opportunity to be immersed in two different societies and have learned to explore a variety of fields.
The experience that sparked my interest in technology happened during my freshman year of high school, when I coded my first calculator to prepare for the University Interscholastic League Computer Science tournament. For the first time, I had created something useful …out of nothing. And it worked!
Reminiscing about all the opportunities afforded to me like HP CodeWars and the National Center for Women & Information Technology, I applied for a grant from the Rice Engineering Alumni that would help me create an organization called Rice Code College (RCC), an initiative designed to introduce computation and STEM fields to middle school students who might otherwise be deprived of those subjects. I wanted these students to be inspired by “creating something useful out of nothing” and be introduced to the languages behind the electronic tools we use everyday. I received the Fall REA 2014 Grant for student-led initiatives and quickly recruited a multidisciplinary team to kick-start the program.
RCC is a full immersive coding and STEM program held at Rice University that exposes 6th – 8th graders to computation and STEM as well as web design. For it’s first two years, RCC’s curriculum consisted of engaging introductions to different types of STEM fields, a conversation about Robotics and its uses in the medical field, and an introduction to Scratch (a visual programing language created by MIT’s Media Lab). The event ends with a team competition, project presentations, and awards. One of Rice Code College’s primary goals is to make these students feel competent about coding and STEM so that they are more likely to pursue it by themselves in the future, either in high school or in college.
Being given the opportunity to create an organization, write a curriculum, and reach out to various middle schools – the principals, the teachers, the parents – allowed me to fully appreciate the amount of work put into organizing educational events. As a student in STEM, I deeply value the diversity and inclusion at Rice University, which is why I had RCC specifically focus on middle school students from low socioeconomic regions in the Houston community and underrepresented backgrounds. These students may not otherwise have an opportunity to be introduced to computation and STEM, and my hope is that RCC will help motivate these students to pursue their passions.