Fort Wayne & NE Indiana News

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Start Fort Wayne Launches Rocket Academy

Local non-profit Start Fort Wayne is launching an education program to help inspire more local kids to enter technology careers in our region.

Rocket Academy is Start Fort Wayne’s first pilot program to teach middle schoolers in after-school programs about electronics and computer programming. The goal is to light the fire of discovery in technology with these young people, and have them think about their future in a technical career.

In the first phase, Start Fort Wayne is working with children on Fort Wayne’s southeast side at McMillen Park Community Center in collaboration with Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation, helping to not only serve individual kids, but also to help narrow the “digital divide.” By providing opportunities with equipment and programming they don’t normally receive, we hope to inspire some of these students to take their education further and enter fields they might not have considered.

Over the first three years of the program, Rocket Academy aims to serve at least 1,000 children all across our region. Start Fort Wayne will also be using this program as a template for creating additional volunteer driven education in other disciplines.

Under the direction of Rocket Academy program manager Jon Rehwaldt, Start Fort Wayne is building a platform for volunteer-driven technology education: • Start Fort Wayne finds, purchases, or writes curriculum.
• SFW procures the equipment and maintains it in a central location so that it can be used in as many classes as possible — rather than just sit on a shelf.
• SFW recruits and trains volunteers to teach the classes and lead students in activities. These volunteers come from across the community, so different parts of our region can mix and learn from one another.
• SFW teaches on-site, rather than have kids need to travel, saving them time and giving more time for instruction.
• SFW measures data on each class, so we can learn what was effective and what wasn’t. The data is then immediately folded back into our current semester, and future classes.

This program is applying an “agile methodology” to education. Nothing is set in stone, and Start Fort Wayne wants to find the best solution as fast as possible by starting small and then scaling up what works — just like a successful startup business.

Rocket Academy is made possible by these great sponsors: AT&T and NIPSCO.

For more information about Start Fort Wayne, including how to become a member and volunteer with its educational programming, visit