Aria Volz first attended a Tech Journey program in January of 2017 at the age of 11. Encouraged by her parents who both have technology-related jobs, Aria participated in an eight-week class to learn the basics of coding with Scratch, a block-based visual programming language from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After another class with Scratch, Volz attended two robotics camps, a camp on the basics of web technologies and then later that year, joined a Tech Journey-sponsored FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) team. These classes, camps and teams are all part of Tech Journey’s YouthCode program which introduces elementary and middle school students to coding and robotics.
Tech Journey’s mission is to “Inspire youth to increase their knowledge and interest in technology by providing engaging learning opportunities led by technology professionals.” Through the three enrichment programs of YouthCode, CoderDojoDSM and Tech Camp, the non-profit organization provides students with access to relevant content, professional mentors and instructors who have experience in their fields and the hardware and software necessary for students to engage and learn. As a female, Volz represents a target demographic for Tech Journey since women are underrepresented in the technology industry.
Fast forward to 2019 when Volz and five other middle school students participated in another year of FIRST LEGO League, this time winning the Champions 1st Place Award at the Iowa State Championship and being selected as one of two teams to represent Iowa at the 2020 FIRST World Championship. For the season’s innovation challenge, Volz’s team developed a comprehensive, simple and customizable problem reporting system leveraging QR codes for users to report issues needing attention in public spaces and facilities such as broken fixtures or overflowing trash cans.
In 2019, Volz and other members of her FLL team attended several monthly CoderDojoDSM meetups, a program started by Tech Journey the same year. The meetups provide youth continuous opportunity to hone existing coding skills and explore new ones. Volz’s team leveraged the CoderDojo meetups to connect with volunteer professionals and further develop and share progress on their project. The response was so positive that the team began pursuing plans to protect their intellectual property and market their application.
Volz, now age 14 and a freshman at Martensdale-St. Marys High School, recently attended Tech Journey’s annual Tech Camp program for central Iowa high school students. As one of 71 students who attended the four day online program, Volz continued learning about Python and web technologies and was also introduced to the BBC micro:bit, a pocket-sized open source codeable computer used for learning physical computing.
The reason Volz attends Tech Journey’s programs? Aria shares “I admit at first I didn’t really like technology and coding. But after attending some of the camps I started to do more hands-on coding. I started to build on what I learned and I enjoy the coding process. I enjoy having a problem to solve and seeing the final project. The more I attended the camps, the more I loved working with technology.”
While Volz is just beginning her first year of high school, she already has a head start. Volz is the co-owner of Losuna, a company she and her FLL team started with plans to market their application. She is also taking a programming class through Des Moines Area Community College. Volz’s head start is all inspired by her involvement in Tech Journey programs.