by Matthew Kemeny
In August, two girls sat outside a California Taco Bell and logged on to the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi for schoolwork. The viral scene underscored the challenges that many families face in having inadequate equipment to meet the demands of online learning.
With many schools shifting to online or hybrid learning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to do our part to help make sure children have the proper equipment needed to succeed.
After completing a technology upgrade at RouteSmart, we decided to donate a bevy of surplus laptops to children of our employees who needed updated equipment for online learning. We are also soliciting equipment donations from our staff for students involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs in the greater Baltimore area.
“We want young people to continue their interest in STEM education and we don’t want them to fall behind by not having the necessary tools,” said IT Operations Manager Christopher Gibson. “It’s hard enough for children to focus on schoolwork from home, but when they don’t have what they need to excel, it becomes even more of a challenge.”
Gibson is a member of the fraternal organization Phi Beta Sigma, which mentors youth on the importance of STEM education and sponsors a robotics team. Through his work with the organization, Gibson became aware there was a program to provide laptops, tablets and high-speed internet access to local students affected by the pandemic.
Approximately 15 to 16 million K-12 public school students in the U.S. live in homes with inadequate internet connection, or have devices that aren’t equipped for distance learning, according to a June 2020 study from Common Sense Media and the Boston Consulting Group.
Baltimore City schools are currently in need of roughly 6,000 laptops for students who do not have adequate equipment. The Digital Harbor Foundation, Baltimore Robotics Center, Rowdy Orbit and the STEM Center for Excellence are among the nonprofits currently working together to solicit donations for laptops, tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots to help close this vital technology gap.
Eric Davis, Executive Director at the STEM Center for Excellence, said conquering this digital divide remains a daunting challenge.
“There are still many students who are not able to participate in daily classwork,” said Davis “We have students driving around the corner to access Wi-Fi from Starbucks.”
People interested in donating laptops or tablets can fill out this form or drop the equipment off at the Baltimore Robotics Center, 1001 W. Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21223. Those wishing to make a tax-deductible monetary donation, can do so here.
“We appreciate RouteSmart Technologies initiative in working to overcome digital inequalities in the Greater Baltimore region,” said Davis. “Thanks to companies such as RouteSmart, we will conquer the digital divide.”