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Thanks to a grant from Aptiv, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library will launch Digital Divers, an afterschool program to help improve students’ science, technology, engineering, and math skills, on Aug. 3 during First Friday.


With an ocean theme, third- through seventh-graders dive deeper into the sea with each completed, self-led STEM challenge in a race to the bottom of the ocean. Along the way, kids will earn points to redeem for prizes and time to use the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. 


“Digital Divers wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of Aptiv,” said Lisa Fipps, KHCPL Director of Marketing. “Aptiv was a key partner in helping us make the Discover Tech: Engineers Make a World of Difference exhibit a success in 2017. It provided funding and volunteers. When we approached the grant committee about an opportunity to partner with us again for Digital Divers, it immediately said yes. Our community is fortunate to have a company with employees who understand the importance of STEM and are eager to help ensure our students succeed.”


Companies such as Aptiv understand that America’s global leadership is threatened because too few U.S. high school students do well with STEM, let alone pursue STEM degrees or careers — especially lower-income women and minorities, Fipps said. “Those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and minorities are deeply underrepresented in STEM fields — just 2.2% of Latinos, 2.7% of African Americans, and 3.3% of Native Americans and Alaska Natives have earned a university degree in STEM fields. This underrepresentation means that the poor and minorities lack qualifications to access STEM-related jobs, which, in addition to being more plentiful, are also better paid than many other jobs.” 


KHCPL’s Digital Divers is based on Muncie Public Library’s Digital Climbers. “We heard great things about their after-school, self-led STEM challenge, so we took a tour,” said Brennan Reed, Head of KHCPL Children’s Services. Muncie Public Library agreed to let us duplicate the program for Kokomo.”


KHCPL would love to see teachers attend the launch.


“KHCPL will be encouraging schools to tour Digital Divers and to compete with other classes and schools,” Reed said. “We would love to see, for example, Western’s third-graders compete with Northwestern’s. Teachers who direct students to KHCPL for Digital Divers will then have kids who come to class with more excitement about and understanding of STEM. That’s a big plus. In addition, for teachers who take advantage of our Teacher Delivery Service, we can provide a variety of STEM-focused materials to the classrooms. To provide the most benefit for our community’s students, we truly want and need partnership with teachers, classrooms, and school districts.”


KHCPL seeks college students, retirees, and others with STEM skills or a passion for STEM to volunteer to be Digital Mentors. “The students select and complete the STEM challenges independently. Digital Mentors answer questions or help with technological glitches,” Reed said. “This would be a great opportunity for retired engineers and current college students who want to go into teaching STEM, for example.”


(Staff received training on the various STEM challenges students will have to complete)


While Digital Divers is for students in third through seventh grades, all ages are welcome to join us in the Multipurpose Room on the second floor of KHCPL Main for the grand unveiling between 5:30 and 8 p.m. There will be refreshments and giveaways for kids while supplies last. 


Teens and adults will be making shark tooth necklaces during First Friday.


Starting Aug. 6, Digital Divers will be from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at KHCPL Main, as well as from 2 to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. “The hours can be adjusted if we find patron demand for more Saturdays or longer weekday hours because of work schedules. This is our starting schedule.”


KHCPL South will also offer Digital Divers on a smaller scale from 1 to 3 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month. Third- through seventh-graders, will complete STEM challenges. Any points earned at KHCPL South can be used at KHCPL Main to redeem prizes or and time to use the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. 


In addition to Aptiv, Digital Divers is sponsored by The SIA Foundation, Friends of the Library, and a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Indiana State Library.

“We are so grateful for all of the funding so that we could bring Digital Divers to Kokomo,” Fipps said.


Call 626.0830 for more information or to become a Digital Mentor.