Youth in the bay area need quality programming where they’ll be engaged, where they can gain independence, and navigate the challenging transition from childhood to adolescence all while learning valuable and applicable skills. According to the California Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Learning Network, “a STE[A]M-literate student is not only an innovator and critical thinker, but is able to make meaningful connections between school, community, work and global issues.”

Y STEAM initiatives serve youth through our after school and camp programs that are living in the Bay Area’s most under-resourced neighborhoods: 35% of youth in our service areas are living in poverty. 

Last year, the majority of the youth involved in the programs were African-American and Latino students (90%) in the 5th-8th grade range. 

Our STEAM programs engage over 1,800 youth in hands-on, project-based learning.

Y kids have opportunity to compete nationally through STEAM competitions like Thingamajig and TechShop’s SumoBots Competition. 

The Y STEAM initiative emphasizes culturally competent curricula, including all participants. Not only do our programs reach a racially and ethnically diverse population, they also ensure that enriching programs during out-of-school-time are accessible for all youth regardless of income.

The YMCA of San Francisco empowers and inspires young people to look towards STEAM education and careers through our STEAM Academy that takes place during the school year and summer camps. Many of the young people that come through our doors are students of color from low-income households. These students are illustrative of those who are traditionally underrepresented in STEAM fields. By working to engage with these young people at an early age, and inspire them to see the possibilities that can come from STEAM education, we are working to create a generation of young people who are not only STEAM-literate, but are ready to fill the growing gap in a diversified workforce.

From woodworking to robotics, and gardening to coding, our menu of options allows for entry points for all students depending on their age and interests.  Our STEAM specialists have been able to work with community partners to develop curriculum and opportunities for engagement in neighborhoods across the Bay Area. 

At Y Makers Camp, youth and their families can engage in woodworking and carpentry classes, learning valuable skills and building furniture and games to take home and to share! We empower youth with an emphasis on safety and creativity, and in this environment, we see young people from kindergarten through high school use tools to create and build. Youth not only learn the skills necessary to properly use and maintain woodworking and carpentry tools, but they are able to build and create something tangible. The sense of accomplishment present for the youth and the families after they work together to build something is poignant.

Through our technology and innovation component, STEAM Academy offers robotics camps and coding classes. Participants learn to take apart computers to rebuild or repurpose them to create something new. Moreover, they learn how to create video games and apps all while experimenting and inventing new ideas. With a joint focus on 21st century skill building and social responsibility, our robotics and app building curriculum have youth identify a community issue and guide them in working together to use the new skills they have acquired to address the issue. Last year, a group of our young people worked together to build a robot they named ElderBot which worked to help seniors and the local retirement community with daily tasks.

We incorporate workforce development and exposure to 21st century STEAM careers into the STEAM Academy. For example, the head of our woodworking component has taken on two high school age “apprentices” one of whom is coming from the San Francisco Mayors Youth Employment and Education Program. These apprentices receive stipends for their work and are given the opportunity to help teach, guide, and mentor younger students. Furthermore, the STEAM Academy takes youth on site tours of STEAM work spaces and welcomes guest speakers who have specialized in STEAM fields to speak with students about their education and career pathways.


In the summer of 2015 we offered the Thingamajig® Invention Convention. The Thingamajig Invention Convention was brought to San Francisco summer camps, and campers worked on hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math inventions at a full-day of learning and competition. Thingamajig started as a way to spark the inventive and creative minds of children through hands-on exhibits and challenges. Originally created by Janice Williams from the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington DC, it’s been twenty-two years and Thingamajig keeps getting bigger and better. 

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