Youth led. Minority led. Volunteer led.
The STEAM Connection is on a mission to make technical education accessible for youth through the power of robotics. Our small team is comprised of youth from across the United States who are passionate about increasing access to technical education. We design, manufacture, and distribute robots for kids like us. We design with accessibility, affordability, representation, and culture as our core goals to best serve our communities. Our headquarters is based out of Troy, MI USA but much of our all-volunteer team works with us remotely.
Founder & CEO, Youth Robotics Inventor
Danielle Boyer is a young Indigenous (Ojibwe - Sault Ste Marie Tribe) robotics inventor, author, activist, and advocate for youth who has been teaching kids since she was ten years old. Danielle creates equitable and innovative learning solutions for minority youths with robots that she designs, manufacturers, and gives away for free. In 2019, she created The STEAM Connection, a minority and youth-led charity that has reached hundreds of thousands of children worldwide with technical education. She has been named one of PEOPLE Magazine's Girls Changing the World, a L'oreal Paris Woman of Worth, a MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellow, and a Verizon Forward for Good Winner for her invention of biodegradable robotics components. She is currently developing a wearable language learning robot for Indigenous youths named SkoBots and resides in Metro Detroit, MI.
Board of Directors
Young people representing our communities. This is an incomplete list and it will be updated soon.
Alex “Panda” Armendariz is a Native scholar and professional at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Panda is a descendant of the Mescalero Apache, but was born and raised in Pomona, CA. He attended Citrus College as a community college student and transferred to the University of California, Riverside, where he completed his B.A. in Liberal Studies with a minor in Native American Studies. Panda currently serves as the Interim Coordinator for the Native American Student Center at Cal Poly Pomona. He is also a graduate student in the M.S. Regenerative Studies program through the Lyle Center at Cal Poly Pomona. His research is focused on Indigenous Communities, Indigenous Food Systems, and Indigenous Sovereignty. Panda currently has been working with the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians and Pauma Tribal Farms.
Michelle Chuang is a young engineer, maker, and strong proponent for diversity and representation in engineering for girls and youth. Michelle is a 2021 graduate from the University of Washington - Seattle where she pursued a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with a focus on controls and embedded systems and is now working as an Azure Cloud and AI Consultant at Microsoft through the ASPIRE Program. Michelle is a strong maker, having helped design a vehicle for children with cerebral palsy and invent an autonomous robot that had varied movement and display responses to different levels of ambient lighting. Michelle currently resides in Bakersfield, California where she spends her time volunteering, tinkering with new technology, and educating the next generation of brilliant minds.
Chief Financial Officer
Varun Sridhar (Indian) is a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, is an educational activist, and is a future microbiologist who is working to bring more girls and women into research and innovation. He is passionate about quorum sensing and sociomicrobiology and is experienced in microbiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry techniques. His past research includes defining the role of kinesins in asymmetric cell division in fruit fly neuroblasts as well as constructing a novel in vivo cannabidiol (CBD) biosensor as part of the 2019 Washington iGEM team. He is currently working to characterize anti-activators of Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum sensing. Sridhar is an incorporator and director of the youth educational nonprofit, The STEAM Connection and works to increase accessibility to important educational resources in Science and Technology for youths of color. He has won awards from the Stanford Research Conference, World Microbe Forum, the University of Washington, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and many others for his work and is a Levinson Emerging Scholar.
Youth representing youth. This is an incomplete list and it will be updated soon.
Vinaya Gunasekar, 14
Podcaster, Ambassador, Inventor
Since Vinaya Gunasekar was a young child, she has worked to bring science and technology educational resources to other kids like her. She got started with helping start the science wing at her elementary school through her initiative, Project R.O.O.T in 5th grade. Now at age 15, Vinaya is an environmental activist and STEM changemaker who is passionate about recycling and using technology and robotics to benefit our Earth in innovative ways. She is a member of all-girls FIRST Robotics Team Infinity & Beyond and is an ambassador of The STEAM Connection. She is currently working on making STEM accessible to hospitalized children and is co-hosting the Hands-On Techie Talks podcast with Danielle Boyer to introduce kids to STEM education during the pandemic. In her free time, you’ll find her working on a robot named Auto Oscar to clean recyclables off of school floors.
Youth representing youth. This is an incomplete list and it will be updated soon.
Dakshesh Daruri, 19
Dakshesh Daruri has been pursuing Science and Technology education since he was 14 and involved in FIRST Robotics. After years of dedication to providing quality STEAM educational resources for underrepresented youth, he is now pursuing Computer Science and Business at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and their Ross School of Business and College of Engineering as a Sophomore. He is currently working with the university on the Empathy In Point Clouds as Research Member and is a Resource Manager of The STEAM Connection, having been with the organization since before it was founded. Alongside Danielle Boyer, Dakshesh is a Verizon Forward for Good Winner and is currently supporting the organization through the VentureWell E-Teams Grant. He is a public speaker and Central and Engineering Student Government member based out of Troy, MI.
Indigenous led. This is an incomplete list and it will be updated soon.
Dr. Joshuaa Allison-Burbank
Developmental Scientist at John Hopkins University
Navajo + Acoma Pueblo
Dr. Joshuaa Allison-Burbank (Diné / Acoma Pueblo) is a father of two from Tohatchi, NM on the Navajo Nation. He is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Developmental Scientist at Johns Hopkins University. He is the founder of Little Moccasins Education Services and is a leading mentor and educational program coordinator of The STEAM Connection where he is helping develop SkoBots, language learning robots for Indigenous youths. His work focuses on culturally responsive teaching practices, parent coaching, and kindergarten readiness. Dr. Allison-Burbank recently co-authored a chapter called American Indian Fathers and their Sacred Children in the recently published book titled ‘Handbook of Fathers and Child Development’ and also contributed to "Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19".
Robotics Design Mentor
Mechanical CAD Engineer
Robert Maldonado (Taíno) is an accomplished mechanical engineer, 3D modeling content creator, and educator. Designing new mechanical systems every single day through his model of the day challenge, Maldonado works to push the capabilities and potential of 3D modeling, while promoting education for the young and old alike. Layered by interactive design, experimental rendering, and advanced simulation, Maldonado is known for his replication of old 2D mechanical models throughout history in different 3D modeling software. His social media influence has helped him bring his creativity and ideas to over 50 thousand people worldwide through Instagram. His visionary perspectives have earned him opportunities to become an expert 3D modeler in everything from sustainable design to advanced mold tools. He is a certified SOLIDWORKS expert, official SOLIDWORKS Champion, and frequent educational lecturer. He is a mentor and design curriculum coordinator of The STEAM Connection.