LIVINGSTON, NJ — A Livingston teenager is hoping to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) among underprivileged children through an initiative she started called Techshare Project.
Molly Cantillon, a sophomore at Newark Academy with an entrepreneurial spirit, launched Techshare Project after visiting her grandfather's hometown in rural China, where she was shocked by “the lack of resources they have to explore new areas of society like STEM.”
“We flew to the nearest airport, drove another five hours through the mountainous region of China while I played some games on my laptop to keep me busy, and we finally reached his hometown,” said Cantillon, who immediately noticed a difference in how the small village functioned, how the buildings were structured and the lack of technology.
While in China, a teen named Mowei explained to Cantillon that the education level of the typical resident is “barely a high school graduate,” and that they have almost no experience with technology.
Cantillon believes that the lack of resources in her grandfather’s hometown was likely due to the town's physical separation from modern society.
“Seeing where my grandfather grew up without technology to protect him from boredom forced me to confront my privilege head on,” said Cantillon. “Not only did I use my technology to play games, but to learn about the world, and explore something I love: coding.
"Had events been slightly altered, I could’ve been a young boy growing up farming and not even knowing about my hidden passion for technology and coding. I wanted to bring these kids an opportunity to develop an interest in STEM at an earlier age, potentially setting them up to me more successful in their future technology-based society.”
Since launching Techshare Project, Cantillon has been learning from other organizations about how to grow her initiative.
In fact, during winter break, she is partnering with Peace Corps of Santo Domingo to hold a robotics workshop in the Dominican Republic, where she will also work with the Batey Foundation to hold two robotics events at a community center in San Luis.
“We hope to continue growing our efforts and reach as many kids as possible,” said Cantillon. “In addition, I am revisiting my grandfather's village this March with a solid plan: to show these kids how amazing the world of STEM is. We are fundraising to bring supplies (computers, school supplies, etc.) to distribute there and allow them to keep and continue their initial passion.”
Through STEM, Cantillon believes that there is potential to “innovate and make the world a better place.” She said she has come to realize that the more children who have an understanding of STEM, the better the world will be when it’s their turn to “collaborate and make solutions to problems we have today.”
Cantillon’s passion for innovation to help others has been enhanced by previous experiences with entrepreneurship, including a summer program she recently participated in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) called LaunchX. The four-week program tasked the teens involved with starting organizations that explored major world issues, such as her team’s topic of police brutality.
“The strong community of students inspired me to go back to my own community and help make a difference here,” Cantillon said of her experience. “My school is a great environment with many resources that help me through my ventures.”
As a fourth grader at Riker Hill Elementary School, Cantillon joined the all-girls robotics team Exit 5A, which she said gave her “a solid foundation of leadership and public speaking skills” that are crucial to a business environment.
In addition to her entrepreneurial interests, Cantillon also plays the saxophone, runs on the varsity cross country and track teams, and participates in Newark Academy’s robotics team as well as the Vex Robotics team outside of school.
“While some may ask how I do all these activities, I want people to know that I am a normal hard-working high school student that has come to learn a lot about time management and time for relaxation,” said Cantillon, who also hopes to inspire others her age to follow their passions.
“Younger people are definitely more creative than adults give them credit for. Sometimes the vast creativity and solutions that a kid can come up to solve a problem are not even thought up by professors and graduates in engineering. In some cases, it can be a benefit to have less information and rules that limit your creativity.”
Cantillon wants other students with entrepreneurial ambitions to know that it is “never too early to start.”
“If you have an idea or a topic you are very passionate about, get out there and you will learn a lot,” she said. “Motivation and ambition are key qualities in a starting entrepreneur.”