Social Impact Internships: Kailey Bridgeman (’24)
Hi! My name is Kailey, and I’m a rising sophomore from Rochester, Minnesota and Scranton, Pennsylvania! (Yes, like The Office) I’m pursuing a math major (Course 18), but I’m also a big performing arts nerd and love to be involved in dance, instrumental music (oboe, bassoon, viola, and most recently ukulele), vocal music, and musical theatre!
When I discovered I’d be spending the summer working in STEM education, I was ecstatic…But also skeptical of my ability to leave a meaningful impact.
Through the PKG internship program, I had found a position with The Coding School – a nonprofit focused on the expansion of accessibility to computer science education. My exact day-to-day with the organization varies, as I take on an assortment of tasks including teaching, curriculum development, outreach work, and data analysis. Most of this is under the organization’s quantum computing initiative, Qubit by Qubit, which runs a series of courses for middle and high school students. These include summer camps and a curriculum to be implemented into high schools across the globe.
There’s something truly inspiring about seeing students half of my age getting to live on the forefront of a field and discovering its possibilities at the same time as its top researchers. The first time I had even heard of quantum computing was as an undergraduate, and here are middle school students, learning about and understanding superposition and entanglement, quantum states, circuits… Early exposure can be critical to developing students’ interest and confidence in a given area. This is important because it ensures we have a community of diverse, enthusiastic people ready to take on careers in quantum computing! And that is truly happening thanks to Qubit by Qubit.
As someone who didn’t have access to a formal computer science education prior to attending MIT, it’s always been important to me to share the knowledge I do have. The Coding School is not my first, and certainly won’t be my last, dive into the world of STEM educational outreach. Yet, I was initially skeptical of my ability to do so outside of a classroom setting. I had taught students mathematics and programming before, yes, but what about researching future school partners? Exploring the public education system of New York City? Or making curriculum recommendations based on past course data?
I was a bit hesitant at first, but the more time I spent delving into research projects and realizing it was okay to fall into a deadend or not always have the right answer, the more confident I became. I felt more comfortable communicating what I’d achieved, being honest about what I didn’t, and taking ownership of my work and my role in Qubit by Qubit as a whole. In a number of ways I hadn’t previously envisioned, I was helping even more students gain access to an even more robust computer science education. Sometimes on a firsthand basis, sometimes a couple steps removed, but regardless, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be involved and grow through this internship.