Maria Lee

Maria Lee
Owner / Director
Synapse Science & Technology Learning Center
Orlando, Florida

The husband and wife team spreading the power of STEAM throughout the community

Maria Lee is the owner and director of Synapse Science & Technology Center, a provider of STEM afterschool and summer programs for children K - 8. She founded the center with her husband after being inspired by their two sons who are passionate about IoT and Robotics.

With over 12 years experience in Early Childhood Development, Maria has firm roots in education. Her husband has worked at Microsoft for 26 years and together, they set out to combine their experience and give back to the community. Their vision was to offer an after school tutorial program and a base where kids could learn about technology, especially robotics and IoT. With a founding principle to make learning about technology as fun as possible, Synapse was born!

Kids come to Synapse after school and during the summer. In term time, they arrive in the afternoon and are offered a varied program. No two days are the same! Maria says it’s important that the experience is fun to keep kids coming back.

“On Monday, we might do coding, on Tuesday an IoT project, on Wednesday a robotics session... We aim to offer a vast program so the experience doesn’t become monotonous.”

They currently welcome 45 students, many of whom are reluctant to leave at the end of the day,

“It’s a great feeling because we know that they are learning and having fun and it’s all thanks to the instructors who take the time to learn about the products. If it wasn’t for them, the kids wouldn’t like coming here.”

It was while Maria was in the process of selecting IoT kits that she came across SAM Labs. She was impressed by the creativity and interactive elements.

“SAM Labs is very creative as children are given the chance to code and create. The lessons and teaching materials are on the ball! A lot of our instructors use the material, either in specific classes and with the whole school. Yesterday we did the flip book project.”

Synapse uses their SAM Labs kits at least twice a week. The kids are introduced to each wireless block before moving on to an activity.

“We’ve seen a positive impact, the kids really enjoy the kits. We usually use them with 2-3 students at a time. They love using the app and we love that it is so visual. It’s very user-friendly if you are are using it for the first time.”

Maria believes that children need to learn about technology from an early age.

“Technology is changing very rapidly and a lot of kids don’t get exposed to technology that much. They are on iPads etc but they don’t know what’s at the core, e.g. how a game is developed. We teach those skills in our program so they can see the other side to technology and how to comes about. To me, technology is a must. Many businesses are going through digital transformations and if you don’t have the right skills, I don’t know if there will be jobs out there. That’s why it’s important for kids even as young as 5 to get exposed to programming, coding IoT, utilizing their creativity and cognitive thinking so they can say ‘I have built this, I can do a lot of things!’”

Often, students who find programming and coding difficult come to Synapse. Children are invited to a discovery day where they are shown how much fun they can have with technology, e.g. creating a smart home with SAM Labs. They end up never wanting to leave!

“For us to engage those children, it’s a matter of trying to introduce it so they understand at their level. Having an instructor just talk at you is boring. Having a lot of interaction and hands-on learning is key. If the experience is visual then the child will look at it and say let me try it! SAM Labs kits are great, very interactive and hands-on. Students need to be able to touch and do. If they learn in this way, it’s better and more importantly, makes it fun!”