Shortly after moving to Greensboro a little more than 3 years ago, Popi Makris –a mother to two young children –quickly saw a need for more exciting, engaging, STEM-based programming for children. With her own background in the coaching of high performing teams in the technology and strategy world, Popi decided to take her talents and begin After School Brilliance.
A STEM-focused after school and day camp enrichment program that offers engaging science, technology, robotics, engineering, art, coding, and math programs to young children, After School Brilliance’s mission is to inspire, nurture and grow the critical and emerging skills necessary for success in the local digital workforce.
Popi is very excited about being a NorthState Tech Lab participant this summer. “As I start growing my business, it’s always great to have the support of my community because that is who I ultimately do this for,” she says. “Also, as I look to open a non-profit makerspace in 2021, I am hoping the program can help me connect with the right individuals to help me achieve this vision.”
Targeted to children between the ages of 5 and 12 (with more Middle School curriculum in the pipeline), the popularity of After School Brilliance was quickly apparent, and Popi left her employer last April to focus full time on running the program. The response has been overwhelming. “You have to plant seeds with children from a very young age regarding STEM curriculum,” she says. “Even with our youngest kids, we use gumdrops and toothpicks to teach them about the basic structures, and then the building –literal building and the building of knowledge –goes from there.”
Popi admits that her student rosters tend to skew more heavily male, but that more and more, girls are becoming involved in her program. “We do things like use electronics to make ‘wearable art’ for groups of girls,” she says. “And those types of things are very popular.”
Typically, After School Brilliance meets in YMCAs, community centers, and even in some schools after the day’s instruction is through. COVID, of course, has made that much different, but it hasn’t slowed things down at all. Because of Popi’s experience in globally based teams, she was able to quickly pivot to Zoom and other ways of keeping her kids connected online. Popi even offered free classes in March and April to alleviate stress on families and give more folks a chance to become involved in the program. Pre-made project kits have gone to children and their families, and the online nature of her sessions has even allowed for students from outside of our area to become involved in After School Brilliance.
“It has been so cool to see, really, during these strange times,” she says. “Kids have joined teams with other kids from all over. It’s really shown that learning doesn’t have to be local.”
For more information on After School Brilliance, visit afterschoolbrilliance.com.