HI-TECH day camps for children started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic by two mums turned learning into fun for children able to sign up to their half-term classes.

IT specialist Sundari Ganapathy and her friend Neetasha Rozario trialled a two-week camp for five to 11-year-olds in August last year.

They proved such a success that, in addition to the holiday camps, they went on to set up term-time sessions on Saturdays and Mondays at Hoe Valley School in Woking and Merrist Wood College in Worplesdon. In a further response to feedback, they also now run sessions for five to seven year olds.

The children are given guidance, using a range of equipment including virtual reality and augmented reality masks, laptops, iPads and interactive wipe boards.

As parents, they felt there wasn’t sufficient tuition in the areas within STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – and brought their skills together to set up awe:STEM.

The sessions are based on a series of structured programmes in coding, robotics and game design designed by Sundari. Each supervised group is kept to no more than 15 children, allowing the children to learn at their own pace.

Sundari said: “I have been able to use my own daughter Janvi, who is nine, as a kind of guinea pig for the programmes I have developed. She loves this kind of work and we call her STEM Girl.”

Neetasha’s two children have also help inspire the programmes as her daughter Roman, five, started coding when she was just three and her brother Storm, six, is described as a problem-solver and also enjoys working in STEM.

Neetasha says: “There is a big problem and it’s not a local one, it’s much broader. There is a big gap in education because children are not being taught in the STEM skills they will need.

“It is believed that 150million new tech jobs will be coming up in the next five years and we don’t even know what they are going to be, because technology is moving so fast. This is our response because we feel we can help fill this gap.

“Children are naturally ready for these types of STEM skills. Children are born curious and interested in technical things but you need to make sure there is a good balance.”

The biggest challenge that the holiday and day camps faced was finding a location, said Neetasha. “Because of COVID, no-one would let us use their premises and at first it was only Merrist Wood that gave us a place. We now also use Hoe Valley School and we have already booked all the spaces available for out seven to 11-year-old classes in August.”

In a bid to offer the STEM experience to as many children as possible, they have also worked with the women’s charity Liaise, based in Maybury, giving free coding classes to the children of some of its clients.

At the end of each day, parents are shown videos of the work the children are doing and given an explanation about the projects, such as the robots they have made, and coding and game design work.

“Parents often ask us if they can sign up to classes as well and they enjoy the chance to sample the equipment,” said Neetasha. But, she explained with a smile, there are no plans at present to provide adult classes.