Workshops on wheels: Stanford Spokes travels to show nationwide

Stanford Spokes hits the street every summer season to bike from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., educating unique educational workshops to communities throughout the nation. This system’s six riders this 12 months — Anna Wang ’24, Leo Glikbarg ’24, Alex Waitz ’25, Jordan Mattox ’25, Helen Tian ’25 and Victoria Ren ’26 — launched into June 16 with a aim of teaching various communities nationwide. 

Spokes was based in 2013 by a gaggle of MIT and Harvard college students to deliver student-run, non-profit and project-based STEM workshops to varsities throughout the nation. Each summer season, seven MIT college students bike from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco within the span of 80 days. Stanford Spokes joined this mission in 2018, finishing the journey in the other way, with Stanford individuals starting from rising sophomores to graduate college students. 

Each couple of days, the scholars bike to a brand new location. To move all of their belongings, they journey with a automotive that one or two members drive to the subsequent location, the place they begin to unpack and arrange tents. The group camps in every location or makes use of Heat Showers, a community for touring bikers to seek out pleasant hosts, sizzling showers and a spot to remain. 

Ren mentioned the day-to-day schedule can differ relying on climate and anticipated distance of the trip. “We nonetheless haven’t discovered what our schedule seems to be like since some days are method too onerous to soundly bike for a protracted time frame,” she mentioned.

On cooler mountain routes, a typical day usually begins at 8 a.m. and contains 30-50 miles of biking. Within the evenings, they both cook dinner ramen or Kraft mac & cheese at camp or their host prepares dinner. 

Throughout the sizzling intervals of summer season and in excessive warmth wave areas, they alter their routine by beginning the day earlier round 6 a.m. and shorten routes to round 10-15 miles to complete by midday. With extra biking within the sweltering solar, bikers might simply get heatstroke or warmth exhaustion, Ren mentioned. 

In between the bike rides, Spokes teaches workshops to youth. They choose completely different locations resembling public libraries or non-profit schooling facilities in underfunded or underserved college districts to ask if they’re inquisitive about internet hosting workshops, Ren mentioned. 

Opposite to the MIT Spokes’ extra STEM-focused curriculum, Stanford Spokes contains artwork and social sciences curriculum together with STEM. Every scholar develops an agenda and one hour lesson based mostly on their educational background. 

Stanford Spokes taught six completely different workshops this summer season: launching bottle rockets, artwork meditation, social networks in social communities, a digital camera workshop to look via historic lenses, introduction to web and laptop science and social identities — intersectionality. 

“College students get fairly excited and ask actually good questions,” Tian mentioned. “It’s enjoyable to have the ability to give college students the house to speak and, for me, to study them, their lives and what’s necessary to them.”

The aim of those workshops is to be hands-on, partaking and shifting experiences. For example, within the social identities — intersectionality workshop, Tian offers puzzle items to college students to allow them to draw their identities. Afterward, she asks the scholars to mix them into one puzzle and discuss how complicated the intersectionality is, in addition to how completely different experiences create completely different identities. On educating days, Spokes members get up round 7 or 8 a.m. to succeed in the educating web site on time. 

“Educating as a lot as attainable in a day, appreciating the values of the neighborhood and bringing these values into the teachings are the stuff you don’t get uncovered to at Stanford that a lot. It additionally helped me to affirm the sense that I wish to be a trainer,” mentioned Stanford Spokes alumni Parth Sarin ’23.

After educating, members generally have time left to do each particular person or group actions. Lately, they’ve gone to baseball video games and watched the brand new “Barbie” film. 

“After we have been in Pittsburgh, the place the journey was getting near the top, I bear in mind our hosts Eva and Olivia requested us a query. ‘Are you sick of one another?’ We checked out one another and we have been like, ‘Yeah, I’m not sick of you,’” Sarin mentioned. “This was a stunning second of recognition that we had gotten so shut and that we had come to simply accept that this journey could be very joyous.”

In accordance with Ren, having an open thoughts is a crucial high quality in a Spokes member because of the unpredictability of every day. “Some days, we’ll get storms and we now have to pack all of the bikes within the van, which will be tough to adapt shortly,” she mentioned. “On different days, resembling after we have been biking in Nevada and Utah the place there have been insane quantities of Mormon crickets, simply strolling alongside and once you’re biking, they leap up.”

Whereas Tian agreed with Ren on being open and going with the move, she mentioned that being team-oriented is among the most necessary qualities for a Spokes member to have. “Fixing tires, pitching a tent and navigating a brand new metropolis requires somebody with a group mindset,” Tian mentioned.

This 12 months’s Spokes journey ended on Aug. 28. Tian mirrored on the numerous classes discovered from her journey throughout the nation. “I’ve a significantly better perspective on completely different components of the U.S. now. Once I have a look at politics and voting points, I can significantly better empathize with individuals who come from very completely different backgrounds, social norms and exposures from me,” she mentioned.