Kids' Tech University is about to launch its 12th annual spring program at Virginia Tech. But like most of the on-campus events that normally take place on Virginia Tech’s beautiful Blacksburg campus, the program has had to adapt because of the pandemic.

Hosted by the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and in partnership with Virginia 4-H, Kids’ Tech University bridges the gap between scientists and kids to make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) more accessible as kids investigate a variety of scientific topics alongside Virginia Tech undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty.

But along with the challenge of changing the program has come opportunity. Kristy Collins, the director of education and outreach at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, has found ways to ensure that kids will continue to stimulate their scientific curiosity at home.

“During the summer, I was thinking that we would have to cancel the program altogether. But after thinking about it for some time, I thought maybe we could try something different with being virtual. While this is not how I want the program to continue for years to come, it may be a great exercise in adaptation and rolling with the punches,” said Collins.

In a normal year, the program strives to create a "university feel" by including children in an interactive session, which resembles a college lecture, in a university classroom. But this year, the program will be hosting the interactive sessions through Zoom and will mail packets of materials for hands-on activities. Undergraduates will be leading the participants and their parents through the activity virtually.

“There is just something unique about going into a physical space with 249 other kids and undergraduates to learn and experience a topic. We are trying hard to ‘re-create’ that during the hands-on activity portion of the program by having small groups of kids and undergraduates interact,” said Collins.

Parents are welcome to watch the interactive session with their child, and they will be needed to assist their child with doing the hands-on activity because some activities require poking holes and handling sharp utensils.

Registration opens on Oct. 27, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. Registration operates on a first-come, first-served basis to all children between the ages of 9 and 12, regardless of place of residence or academic achievement.

Kids’ Tech University has four program dates for the semester, and participants and parents are expected to attend all four. Sessions will be held in the morning and will conclude by noon.

The schedule for the spring 2021 Kids’ Tech University semester includes:

In order to keep up with the costs of providing a quality program, there will be a nonrefundable registration fee of $50 per child, payable upon registration. Parents have an option to apply for a scholarship during registration. Registration for Kids’ Tech University is capped at 250 students. 

Please email Kristy Collins at kdivitto@vt.edu with any questions.

— Written by Kendall Daniels