N2N Spotlight: Key Tech Labs
A STEM program that brings kids together to build connections and grow locally organic food is one of eight recent N2N grantees.
October 01, 2019
By Elaine Chu, Senior Philanthropic Advisor
A garden robot? At Key Tech Labs outside First Place School in the Central District, students are building, programming and installing an agricultural machine in a greenhouse, where the machine plants many different crops, then waters them, detects weeds, measures soil moisture and more. As students build and operate the equipment, they simultaneously learn STEM-based engineering skills, urban agriculture skills and healthy food habits. Then the organic produce from the garden is donated to local food banks.
The “Farmbot” is Key Tech Labs’ latest project, supported by a grant from SeaFdn’s Neighbor to Neighbor program. The organization’s four-week course trains kids ages 3–8 to construct, maintain and use the garden robot while teaching principles of food equity in a collaborative, cooperative and educational environment. It connects people around something we all share—food!—and helps our youth and community promote a healthier lifestyle.
A first-time N2N grantee, Key Tech Labs brings emerging technology to underrepresented areas and helps create self-sustainable communities. It also seeks to create a direct pipeline for talented, diverse, and underrepresented tech entrepreneurs to fully engage in the workforce. The organization is committed to opening paths to STEM technology for youth of color, LGBTQ and underrepresented youth.
Key Tech Labs was founded by twin brothers, Andrew and Adam Powers, who grew up in South King County. Andrew and Adam's dedication to creating racial, social and economic equity is something they vocally express, pointing to their direct lived experience in tech without mentors or “keys” to unlock the doors to a tech career. Members of our team recently conducted a site visit with Key Tech Labs at First Place School, which operates a preschool, primary school and subsidized housing at its Central District location. “We were immediately captivated by Andrew’s energy, tech knowledge, and youthful presentation,” says N2N program consultant Aileen Balahadia. “It felt like all the best parts of Seattle’s tech economy and healthy food movement were actually coming together to fill a true, urban need focused on the most underrepresented populations in both sectors.”
“Our goal is not just to come in as some outside party, but to show up as members of the community who are building and finding leaders from the community to lead,” Andrew says.
Since their inception in 2015, Key Tech Labs has formed a network of supporters that includes school systems, organizations, STEM/business professionals, and members of law enforcement. They have provided STEM workshops in partnership with the Seattle Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and Seattle University.
The City of Seattle’s Human Services Department contributed to this N2N grant to support food equity. The Farmbot is one of eight projects supported by the most recent Neighbor to Neighbor grant cycle. The other grant recipients are listed below.
African Community Housing Development, supporting Kent-based African immigrant and refugee communities and their leadership capacity to advocate for issues such as housing, education and economic development.
Eat With Muslims, supporting gatherings of diverse Muslim families who have participated in prior EWM dinners and have requested opportunities to build bridges within and among diverse Muslims in Seattle and Kent. These events will identify cross-demographic issues such as hate crimes, food insecurity and economic development.
Falis Community Services, supporting a cohort of Somali Bantu and other East African youth and their parents in Kent to increase inter-generational dialogue and build stronger relationships. They will do this by preparing and eating cultural foods together, while also understanding the origins and importance of the ingredients and recipes in their culture.
Garinagu Houngua, supporting a series of food workshops featuring the understanding, preparation and sharing of traditional Garifuna (Central American coastal indigenous) ancestral foods in South Seattle amongst the local Garifuna community as well as with the larger public.
Project Feast, supporting 6-8 “Migrating Meals” events in the greater Seattle area, including Kent, that would highlight local refugee/immigrant leadership and create respectful entry points for engaging with members of the refugee and immigrant community.
Southeast Asian Pacific Islander Health Education Summit Committee, supporting the development of SEAPI youth and community members from South Seattle into cross cultural health advocates and leaders as they plan and organize the second Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander Health Education Summit.
Ubumwe Womens Association, supporting a monthly Rwandese women group in Kent and South King County focused on healing from the dramatic effects of past trauma in their homeland. This will include the use of art, dance and culture as a form of physical and mental health and will also include inter-generational activities for children and mothers.
We invite you to learn more about the purpose and history of the Neighbor to Neighbor program by watching this short video.
Explore additional information about our Neighbor to Neighbor program and the Center for Community Partnerships.
Neighbor to Neighbor,