Ruby’s Story: The Multiplier Effect

Meet Ruby Rios, one of KC STEM Alliance’s youngest volunteers! Back when she was wrapping up fifth grade, Ruby’s dad pushed her to try one of the early app development camps offered in Kansas City. The next thing she knew she had taken every coding camp she could find. Yet she noticed she was often the only girl in the room–and she didn’t want other girls to be deterred or discouraged should they find themselves in a similar position.

“Despite being the only girl in many of my later computer science classrooms, it was that first experience where I felt safe and excited about coding that allowed me to persevere. So I figured that if I could help other girls have similarly great experience, I would have done something valuable,” Ruby said.

And that is how one of Kansas City’s youngest advocates for girls in STEM got her start. Ruby went to work right away, volunteering at five KC STEM Alliance all-girls app camps. When she realized no Girls Who Code clubs were available in central KC she founded not one, but two, to reach girls at her school and as an outreach in the urban core.

She co-founded KC STEMinists, a program that helps girls combine entrepreneurship with technology. She met Malala. She traveled to Africa for a three-week UN “Girl Up” STEAM camp. And she’s just in her senior year of high school. Ruby is proof positive that reaching one means reaching many.

During a TedXYouth KC event in fall of 2017, Ruby shared five main ideas from her own experiences:

  1. Be passionate about something: For me, the ball that got this all rolling wasn’t necessarily the app camps, though that was a large part. The app camps were something I picked up. The sphere in my Katamari game was my passion for girls in tech.
  2. Help others: It seems weird to think about, but you are probably better off than a lot of people. No matter what age, you have something you can help teach others. Use where you are to help others up. Create opportunities, be a leader, just help others.
  3. Look beyond the usual: I was going to forensics and robotics competitions through school, and taking multiple college courses. But a lot of the cool stuff I have done is outside of school. Go out into your community, incorporate your passions in anyway you can, but look outside your usual places.
  4. Don’t wait: Don’t just wait for the next thing to come find you, but if something does find you, don’t say no just because it’s unfamiliar.
  5. Find mentors. You need mentors to encourage you and support you, because (like in the Katamari game) you’ll be picking up things that may seem bigger than you can handle. Make it a point to keep talking with them as you go.

Hear more of Ruby’s story in her own voice in this video from INK’s 30 under 30 recognition: