Trending: Hands-on with the $350 Surface Headphones: Why is Microsoft making them, and are they any good?

The new Amazon Future Engineer program funds scholarships. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon is officially launching a new program it calls “Amazon Future Engineer,” a broad, community-based push into schools and education that represents a renewed emphasis on education, an area in which it’s had mixed success.

The free program unveiled Thursday is tightly focused on computer science as part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. Amazon says it’s taking a long, childhood-to-career perspective with the program. Elements include coding camps and online lessons, paying for introductory and Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses, as well as underwriting college scholarships for degrees in computer science.

Throughout the entire AFE program, Amazon says it’s hoping to help underprivileged kids and underserved communities.

“Computer science skills are some of the most in-demand in the modern economy, and we have created Amazon Future Engineer because we believe young people from all backgrounds should have help from childhood to career so they can have a future in this highly paid, rapidly-growing field,” said Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s worldwide consumer CEO in a statement.

“Among Black and Hispanic students, those who take AP computer science in high school are up to 8 times more likely to take computer science in college,” Wilke said, “and among women, they are 10 times more likely to do so — yet most high schools don’t offer these courses.”

If some of this emphasis on computer science and future engineers by Amazon sounds familiar, previously Amazon had its AWS Educate program for students as young as 14 to learn about cloud computing at no charge. Also, back in April, Amazon partnered with online education company Edhesive to sponsor schools that wanted to implement Edhesive’s curriculum for AP Computer Science.

The company’s new AFE program seems to roll up many or all of these earlier activities, including the Edhesive curriculum, into a single initiative. Amazon, in making Thursday’s announcement, said it did run a beta of Amazon Future Engineer in 2017 and 2018.

Breaking down the new program by grade level:

  • For kindergarten through 8th grade students, Amazon will pay for computer science lessons and camps with partnerships through organizations like Seattle-based Code.org.
  • For 9th through 12th grade students, Amazon will help fund Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science courses.
  • For college students, Amazon will offer $10,000 per year, 4-year “Amazon Scholar” scholarships for those pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science. Recipients will be eligible for a paid software development internship at Amazon, starting in 2020.

In all cases, the focus is on low-income, underprivileged or underserved communities. The company aims to reach more than 10 million kids with the coding activities and lessons each year, 100,000 high school students with the AP courses, and 100 students with the college scholarships.

“This program from Amazon will play an important role in helping make computer science education — and high paying jobs — a reality for female and underrepresented, minority students,” said Hadi Partovi, Code.org’s founder and CEO, in the Amazon statement.

Amazon has had mixed success in education and edtech. In late March, Amazon said it would shut down its acquired TenMarks business with its Math and Writing products after the end of the 2018-19 school year, and its Amazon Inspire site for teachers to find and share educational resources has never left open beta. However, Amazon Web Services for education still appears to be going strong, and Kindle e-readers and ebooks are a staple in many schools.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline

Comments

Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.