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Benefits of the Onramp program flow to local schools

Alexandre Bakarani
Alexandre Bakarani unpacks the boxes of equipment he received as a participant in Apple’s Engineering Technology Camp. Photo provided by Kim Bakarani.

Thanks to Onramp, a local high school student spent his summer in a prestigious online camp hosted by Apple that not only honed his computer skills, but connected him with mentors and fellow students across the country.

Onramp, a joint program of Boise State University, the College of Western Idaho, the Idaho Digital Learning Alliance, and Apple’s Community Education Initiatives team, teaches in-demand coding skills to K-12 teachers and library staff who share what they learn with their students in schools across Southern Idaho. Onramp targets schools where at least 60 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch.

Boise State alumnus Sam Stafford, a computer science teacher at Borah High School in Boise, was part of the 2019 Onramp group. That inspired him to post an application for Apple’s Engineering Technology Camp (ETC) at Borah. One of his students, 10th-grader Alexandre Bakarani, applied.

Bakarani, now in 11th grade, was one of just 25 students to be selected for the camp. The pandemic moved the program online.

“Apple rebounded by sending boxes with everything Alexandre could need to get the best hands-on learning experience this summer,” said his mother, Kim Bakarani. “’Dream come true’ is not even in the ballpark to describe an opportunity of this magnitude.”

Bakarani, whom Stafford described as “mature in his character and demeanor,” with interests that range from quantum computing to the stock market, immersed himself in the camp and subjects that included computer engineering, computer science, product design, packaging and more.

“The camp gave me insights into what it’s actually like to work in these fields,” said Bakarani. He’s interested in one day pursuing computer science or mechanical engineering with an emphasis in aerospace.

“Machine learning and automation are also interesting to me. I got to touch on all of them this summer,” he added.

Without Onramp, said Stafford, “None of this would have happened.”

Onramp in the classroom

All of Stafford’s students, in addition to Bakarani, benefitted from Onramp, Stafford said. The program inspired him to create a lesson plan in which he invited school staffers, including the school nurse, custodian and nutrition specialist, to pose real-world problems they encounter at work. Stafford’s students devised potential apps to help solve those problems, including a language translation app to help school staffers from around the world communicate.

“Once you’re in Onramp, you’re always part of it,” said Stafford. “My teaching practices have changed because of this program and resources have opened up for my kids.”

Gordon Jones, dean of Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design said, “It’s easy to sometimes overlook the many downstream impacts that programs like this Apple partnership have on our Idaho students. These stories touch all stakeholders. It’s public higher education at its best.”

– By Anna Webb