At 25 years old, Shivam Bhakta has been busy. The former Cy-Fair High School student wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since graduation, he’s completed two undergrad degrees at the University of Houston, worked as an engineer for Exxon, backpacked through numerous countries in Asia, and most recently secured a new job with the federal government. It sounds exhausting but it wasn’t enough for the enthusiastic Bhakta who has opened his heart and a new business to give back to his community.
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Bhakta has invested in an IDEA Lab Kids franchise and opened in early August to be ready for the fall rush.
“We started with about six to eight kids, but enrollment has been steadily climbing,” he said.
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IDEA Lab Kids was founded as a way for kids to explore their love of science, technology, engineering, art and math subjects.
In the past, STEM was the buzzword in the education space. Arts has been added more recently.
“Arts is important because that’s the creative side of learning for most children,” said IDEA Lab Kids CEO Devina Bhojwani.
“Research shows that the more creative thinking a child has the more they grow up with those types of skills that they can apply in real life,” she explained.
The Houston-based education franchise has positioned itself to become a leader in the growing STEAM education.
For Bhakta, the concept resonated with his love for the community he says has given him so much.
“That’s what enabled me to get my job at Exxon and to have the opportunity to travel the world,” he said of his education at Cy-Fair.
Since returning from his trip, he and his team opened up the IDEA Lab Kids Cypress location.
“Now we’re working on inspiring other kids in Cypress so they can go and pursue STEM technical degrees and have fun in the process,” the excited engineer said.
Since he was a child, he’s been involved with science related activities including robotics.
“I watched Bill Nye, Magic School Bus, and all the fun educational videos. I would be glued to the television watching and learning,” he said. He enjoyed learning random science facts and repeating them back to his family and friends.
His curiosity also got him in a little trouble.
“I also liked to dismantle things and then get yelled at for not being able to put them back together again,” he laughed.
He credited growing up in the perfect era when the marriage of internet and technology was mature enough to relay all the important information to him.
“I could code at home, learn important chemistry concepts at home and do all of that through the internet,” he said.
He believes his dual degrees of chemistry and economics at the University of Houston has set him up perfectly for sharing his passion for STEAM and effectively running a business.
At the same time, he’s balancing his new job requirements working for the national nuclear arms department in Washington, D.C.
A busy schedule is nothing new.
“I’ve been enjoying being busy since I was a kid, so I don’t think it’s new for me to wear more hats,” he laughed.
“I have a staff that will conduct the day to day operations. A lot of the strategic operations I will still be doing,” he said.
For now, he works remotely from Cypress and has applied for a full-time remote position. Otherwise, he will move to Washington, D. C. sometime in January.
“My family still lives in Cypress so I will be going back and forth from Washington, D. C. to Houston. At some point, I will move back to the area permanently.”
Earlier in the year he spent six months traversing several countries fulfilling another dream of backpacking the world. When he returned, he got serious about his passion for sharing education.
“I was looking for some afternoon program to invest in,” he said. After school he used to tutor students at a couple of programs but realized that the programs didn’t really meet his criteria.
“They just gave you more homework. They didn’t grow your technical skills or inspire you to learn. They didn’t teach you the fun, practical aspects of science.”
When he saw IDEA Lab was teaching kids aerodynamics and the chemistry of cooking, he realized the potential it had to spark innovators.
“They have a lot of fun, hands-on skills that kids learn,” he said.
One of the concepts that sold him on IDEA was the addition of arts to the STEM category.
“You can teach a child chemistry, anatomy, and teach them to memorize concepts, but that’s not the way they learn,” he said. “The way they learn is applying it through the arts. The moment you apply arts to the field of STEM, you make it a lot more practical, more engaging and relatable. I think that’s what makes IDEA Lab so innovative,” he said.
With the pandemic still in play, Bhakta has pivoted with his colleagues at IDEA Lab Kids to offer pod-based learning where kids are taught in a small group of six to eight in one class.
“Parents can bring their students to our campus and we’ll put them in a pod with an instructor and take over their ZOOM classes and assist the students,” he said. During their breaks or when they have finished their day, Bhakta said they will include STEAM activities.
He and the staff have introduced COVID-19 protocols to keep everyone safe.
The learning space is approximately 2,500 square feet with a room setup for each element of STEAM.
They offer a variety of pricing dependent upon the programs selected including some new opening and promotional discounts.
“We want the cost to be competitive with other child care services but with us you get the better benefits of STEAM education while you’re there,” he said.
Students bring their own lunches and snacks and masks are mandatory for everyone during bathroom breaks.
The IDEA Lab Kids Cypress facility is located at 800 Gessner Rd., Suite 100 in Houston. For more information, visit www.cypress.idealabkids.com.