Kavelle Hylton, who grew up in the community of Jones Town in Kingston, has always had a love for the sciences.
While attending Trench Town Comprehensive High School, she was very excited about studying the different science subjects. However, the school at that time, did not have a science lab nor teacher.
“I actually spent my summers learning about the 206 bones that make up the human body, and the first 20 elements of the periodic table. You can guess [that] I was really excited to do it… [but] I was very disappointed [about] not having that sort of support,” Ms. Hylton said on the JIS Television Programme, ‘Get the Facts’.
“It actually inspired me to become a science teacher and, as an educator, I realised that my situation in high school was not unique, and that you have thousands of students across Jamaica and the Caribbean who really don’t have access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) resources, or science educators,” she added.
So, being a solution-oriented person, Ms. Hylton founded the STEM Builders Learning Hub.
The initiative is the Caribbean’s first online tutoring platform dedicated to providing a collaborative and engaging space where students and parents can access STEM learning materials and educational support from registered tutors.
It was launched on July 31, 2020 and is centred around providing an array of resources to reignite teachers and students with a passion for STEM education.
Additionally, it explores the use of technology in education, which has become more popular since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So, our programmes focus on teaching the sciences using a very hands-on approach. We do robotics, coding, Math, and the arts. So, we are STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)-focused,” Ms. Hylton pointed out.
The STEM Builders Learning Hub is a participant in the Development Bank of Jamaica’s (DBJ) IGNITE programme.
In 2015, the DBJ officially launched the Innovation Grant from New Ideas to Entrepreneurship (IGNITE) programme to undertake capacity development initiatives targetted at micro and small businesses.
Under the initiative, the Bank has supported Jamaican entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas to access grant funds to develop prototypes or facilitate commercialisation.
Ms. Hylton told JIS News that she heard about the DBJ programme via social media.
“I’m part of certain business schools, so they were sharing the flyer and I thought, ‘let’s try…what do I have to lose?’ I really needed support, not just the finances or the money. The application process really helped me as well because you have to really focus your business, and come up with that proposal,” she informed.
“It really helped you to focus, in terms of what your mission and vision are for the business, and you also had to have those financial records. So, it meant that you had to get your books in order.
It really [helps] your business to position itself to grow,” Ms. Hylton added.
The Science Educator said participating in the IGNITE programme was an opportunity for her company to “really level up.”
“We really wanted to grow and really take Jamaica and the Caribbean by storm. So, I saw this as an opportunity to do so, and through the DBJ IGNITE programme, we were able to do that,” Ms. Hylton said.
“We were also in the prototype stage of our science kits; and so, one of the things that were targetted for the DBJ is to level up our website, so that we can also offer e-commerce. Another thing that we were targetting was to commercialise these kits and make them available for students, and through the IGNITE programme, we were able to do just that,” she added.
To this end, the Likkle Einstein STEM Kit was launched, and a book titled, ‘Likkle Einsteins Save the Beach’, was written to go with it.
“We are working through the IGNITE programme to offer courses that can be done asynchronously. So, persons can go on our website and access whenever they want… that’s what we are working to achieve. So, you have robotics, coding and programming and science activities that persons can access,” Ms. Hylton informed.
The Science Educator sees her company as the future of EdTech in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
“We are definitely poised to be the model organisation that will actually show persons what you can do, not just in STEM, but what you can do in the education industry. Our hope is that we will be able to transform education across Jamaica and the Caribbean, make it accessible and available to all students, regardless of where you go to school, your gender, or your socio-economic background,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Hylton is encouraging other companies to participate in the IGNITE programme.
“Financing is a big thing; of course, you need the money. But you should also ensure that you research all the different opportunities for financing. DBJ is the best place to start. If I can do it, you can too. Don’t be intimidated by the application process… you just have to focus,” she emphasised.
For more information on the DBJ’s products and the services, persons can visit their website at https://dbankjm.com/ or www.thinkbigee.com.
Persons may also visit the website – https://stembuildersjm.com/ – for information on the STEM Builders Learning Hub.