Let's Get TEK-nical
A new afterschool program in Lake Oswego aims to jumpstart the next generation of electrical engineers, computer programmers and mechanical designers.
The new program, called The TEK Center, is located at 5950 Willow Lane, just off Boones Ferry Road. Inside is a warehouse full of computers, robotics parts, games to challenge kids' brains and other fun activities that will hopefully spark kids' interest in science, technology, engineering and math-related ventures.
TEK stands for "To Every Kid," and that's the mantra behind the center, says Zayne Mayfield, who co-founded the business with his three brothers, Zyan, Zach and Zeal.
Each brother brings expertise in a different field to turn their vision for the TEK Center into a reality. Zayne holds a master's in education from George Fox University, while Zyan earned a degree in electrical engineering from Portland State. Zach handles the business-development side of the company, while Zeal, with a background in computer science and programming, takes care of the team's in-house management and registration system.
The TEK Center is an offshoot of their company EG Robotics, which provides after-school programs and summer camps in robotics for more than 40 schools in Portland and Beaverton with a staff of 15 teachers. The idea behind the TEK Center is to provide third- to fifth-grade students with 7,800 square feet of space in which their imagination and curiosity can run wild.
"Our No. 1 thing is bringing valuable education to kids. When you look at schools, a lot of the time it's one teacher to 30 kids. That's not a good learning environment, so what we look at is what can we provide them that's high-level, high-quality and hands-on," Zayne says. "When we see these kids pick up stuff quickly and show us stuff they've learned that we didn't even teach them, it feels so good and is the most rewarding part of what we do."
The TEK Center is currently pushing recruitment for its fall programming through a series of free Saturday courses from 10 a.m.—noon in which kids can get a taste of the type of activities they'd experience in the after-school sessions. Last Saturday's course saw kids creating their own mobile robots that had to traverse an off-road test track.
This Saturday, Oct. 7, kids will get the chance to play around with circuit boards and learn about basic electrical engineering. On Oct. 14, they'll be asked to disassemble computers and put them back together.
"The parents who have kids who are naturally brighter, it's hard for them to find places where their kids fit in because everyone teaches at the lowest kid's level," Zyan says. "The kids who really love our courses are the ones who love a challenge."
But don't get the brothers wrong. There's just as many kids who don't do well in regular classes, Zeal says, who excel when it comes to tactile, hands-on learning where they're building things and getting to see the ins and outs of how everything works.
"It's fun. Robots are awesome, so kids get motivated to work hard to get their robot moving around like the other kids' robots are," Zach says.
In addition to the Saturday sessions, The TEK Center will host a free event tonight — from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5 — called "Parents' Night Out." The event is aimed at giving kids a sample of The TEK Center's programming while appealing to parents who don't get out often because of time commitments with their kids.
The Mayfield brothers are hoping to not only provide a new service to Lake Oswego, but also to become a part of the community in a way that helps students pursue their academic and recreational pursuits in technology and engineering.
"We really want to get plugged into the community and be known as a safe place to learn," Zayne says.
For more information or to register for The TEK Center's after-school programming, visit afterschooltek.com or call 971-319-2814.