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
Creating the first cultural robots.
Danielle Boyer is a 22-year-old Indigenous (Ojibwe) robotics inventor and advocate for youth who has been teaching kids since she was ten. Driven by her families own inability to afford science and technology education, she is passionate about making education accessible and representative for her community so that no child is left behind. Danielle creates equitable and innovative learning solutions for Indigenous youths with robots that she designs, manufactures, 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 with an emphasis on language revitalization. The STEAM Connection focuses on the future: ushering in a new age of education via personal and wearable robotics, artificial intelligence systems, and augmented reality. Informed by the past and present, The STEAM Connection utilizes traditional knowledge to uplift and protect Indigenous communities with an emphasis on language.
Danielle has been named one of PEOPLE Magazine's Girls Changing the World, a MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellow, a L'oreal Paris Woman of Worth, a Teen Vogue Indigenous Youth Changemaker, and a Verizon Forward for Good Winner. She is a two-time invitee of the White House and has spoken for Adobe, MIT, Verizon, The United Nation's Girl Up Summit, MTV, Qualcomm Inc., CalTech, and many more. She is currently working on a documentary with MIT Solve and resides between Southern California and Michigan.
Danielle is Ojibwe, an enrolled citizen of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
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.
Alexandra Villanueva, 15
Youth Ambassador & Coder
Alexandra Villanueva is a 15-year-old first-generation Salvadoran youth based in Los Angeles working to make computer science spaces safe for girls. In 4th grade, she tried to join a robotics team but was the only girl at the first meeting she attended. The other students were rude to her, and it kept her from pursuing her interests in STEM until years later when she stumbled across the youth organization The STEAM Connection. Now, Alexandra is a STEM changemaker who is passionate about representing her culture and creating resources for BIPOC girls who may have had the same experiences that she has had, with a focus on wellness and mental health which is often not prioritized in minority households. She is an ambassador of The STEAM Connection and is passionate about using her skills in coding to create solutions for girls just like her. She has a University of Southern California Certificate of Young Programmers, has completed their Web Development Camp, and is currently creating her app, Super Sisters, to make STEM accessible. Alexandra is also an honors student, volunteer for the wellness of local at-risk youth, a Varsity state qualifier and marathon runner, and is passionate about cultural culinary arts.
Vinaya Gunasekar, 16
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 16, 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.
Indigenous led. This is an incomplete list and it will be updated soon.
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.