Courage—specifically the courage of school teachers—is what stands out for Mat Wisner as he marvels at the way his team's Amazon Future Engineer program has grown since late 2018, when it vaulted from pilot project to nationwide impact.
"You have teachers who have never coded before teaching Advanced Placement computer science courses," said Wisner, senior manager of Amazon Future Engineer, who leads the team implementing the childhood-to-career program. "They're learning along with the students. They're saying 'Let's just roll up our sleeves and do this together. We're both going to make mistakes, and we'll learn together.'"
The intrepidness of so many teachers produced a key milestone in 2019. Amazon-funded computer science courses reached more than 100,000 students at more than 2,000 high schools.
"My takeaway is that the teachers are superheroes," Wisner said. They're showing what's known as "bias for action" in the language of Amazon's Leadership Principles. "What struck me was that they asked themselves 'Is this the right thing for our students? Yes or no?' and answered 'Yes.' And now they're proceeding to figure it out. I really applaud that effort."
For its part, Amazon Future Engineer is taking an action-focused approach to achieving its ambitious goals: inspiring hundreds of thousands of kids to explore computer science; providing access to Intro or AP Computer Science courses to over 100,000 high school students; awarding $40,000 college scholarships with a guaranteed paid internship to 100 students each year.
Just as many participating teachers are learning as they go, they're helping Amazon Future Engineer get better. "High school teachers are very forthcoming with feedback and very unbiased," Wisner said. "They're not scared to give Amazon critical feedback, which has been very helpful for us. We're learning what students need and what will engage them and attract them to computer science. We think about what unique ways Amazon can help students. We want to bring more."
Amazon Future Engineer is part of Amazon's $50 million investment in computer science/STEM education. In addition, Amazon Future Engineer has donated more than $20 million to organizations that promote computer science/STEM education across the country.
From robotics to music, watch the video above and explore the images below to learn more about what Amazon Future Engineer is accomplishing alongside teachers and students.