With their Future Engineer programme, Amazon is helping children from low-income communities learn robotics, AI, coding and more to develop innovation skills and find a career in engineering. Here’s how the campaign is helping them find their voices and ambitions.
This article has been sponsored by Amazon India.
“Through the journey of building robots, I have realised the initial part is the hardest. But once you take that first step and move to the next one, you’ll realise how far you have come,” says 16-year-old Nikhat Ahmed Khan.
During the lockdown in 2021, Nikhat, who was studying in a municipal school in Mumbai, was apprehensive about the future as she feared her learning would come to a halt.
But life had other plans.
A year later, in October 2022, she and four other children — Rohit, Paras, Sumeet and Pritam — represented India in Geneva, Switzerland, at the international robotics competition FIRST Global Challenge.
Spanning the months from July 2021 to October 2022, Nikhat, alongside 250 children, enrolled in a course offered by The Innovation Story – an education social enterprise through which children learn computer science.
The course starts from the basics of coding and leads to advanced courses like robotics for interested students. Nikhat’s team began the course with the basics of digital literacy, but went on to successfully build their very own robot in a short duration of eight months under the mentorship of Meenal Majumder, founder of The Innovation Story.
Majumder says the core principles of the social enterprise have always been to empower young students and transform them into innovators through experiential learning. And this is evident at their centre in Mumbai, which is always replete with activity.
Students can be seen working on computer programming, being trained in robotics, and building prototypes and models in order to “equip them with tools to solve real-world problems”.
But, as Majumder adds, achieving this milestone wouldn’t be possible without a catalyst.
While the children at The Innovation Story hustle to learn and grasp as much as they can, Amazon has been fuelling this attempt through the Amazon Future Engineer programme.
Let’s build a robot
Simply put, the Amazon Future Engineer programme backs children from underprivileged communities and increases their access to computer science education. They provide them with tools such as laptops, robotics kits and access to coding basics, which enables them to become creators of technology and build a better future for themselves.
“Through the Amazon Future Engineer programme, these kids get the exposure they need. All they need is the reaffirmation they can do this,” emphasises Majumder, adding that through Amazon’s support, the children begin to develop a voice and ambition.
She goes on to note that in the months that followed, she saw a transformation within the group of five children.
“As the news of going to Switzerland for the competition sank in, they began brushing up on their English skills,” she quips. “There was a renewed confidence in them.”
Providing children a foundation in technology
“They were no longer unsure of their career trajectories, but rather certain that they wanted to be engineers and give back to society through innovations. I have seen them transform from a bunch of shy kids who would hide behind each other to ones who are now bursting with new ideas. It suffices to say they are masters of their own destinies.”
While Nikhat, Rohit, Paras, Sumeet and Pritam are now pursuing their college studies in Class 11 and 12, Amazon believes they are the first of many more children whose futures are set to be changed through its Future Engineer programme.
Anita Kumar, Head of Amazon Community, CSR – India & APAC, says, “As a company of creators, thinkers, and builders, we know how technology can change the world and we believe in the power of computer science to unleash creativity and unlock human potential. We also know that talent and passion is spread across all young people, but opportunity is not. That is why we created Amazon Future Engineer, a computer science education programme designed to offer all young people — particularly those who’ve been systemically denied opportunity and access — the chance to explore their potential.”
To date, 4.5 lakh students — majorly from underprivileged backgrounds — from over 3,000 government schools across 11 states have been supported by the e-commerce giant in their quest to help children explore and learn computer science through interactive digital and in-person learning interventions.
As for Nikhat, this was a dream come true. “I never expected to be able to go outside India. So when I got the opportunity, I knew I had to make it count.”