Westport teen makes STEM relatable with new tutoring business
WESTPORT — From a young age, Ben Saxon has loved all things related to STEM, but now he hopes to inspire a passion for the subject in others.
“I’ve been building stuff my entire life,” the Staples High school freshman said. “I never found the school system to be particularly stimulating in that subject. I always found it to be particularly rigid and one dimensional. I thought if it didn’t work for me, how could I make it work for others?”
Last year, the answer came in the form of his own business called Simply Academic. The tutoring service specializes in math, robotics, coding and other STEM-related topics. Clients can sign up for courses at simplyacademic.org.
“The vision for Simply Academic is to create a forum for older individuals who have expertise and knowledge in science and technology, and then connect those older more experienced students with younger students who are looking to learn something and have fun,” Saxon said.
Clients range from ages 6 to 14, and the tutors are Staples students with interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“What we’re really trying to do is differ from the normal type of learning,” he said. “But being around the normal school system gives us insight on how we can relate to students and deliver a better service.”
Originally lessons were held at the Westport Library, with tutors helping students with math work and building robots, among other activities. But when closures became widespread due to coronavirus concerns, Saxon’s business pivoted to a more virtual approach.
“We now use (the Zoom video conference app) for all of our lessons,” Saxon said. “We hold lessons with two to three students so it’s a social enviroment.”
The robotics-oriented business also delivers kits to student’s doorsteps to ensure hands-on learning is still provided, he said.
“I think what makes us distinct is how we incorporate hands-on activities,” Saxon said, adding the business placed an emphasis on interactive, fun learning.
Currently three programs are available — make block robotics, creative lego building, and Star Wars programing — but courses are subject to change.
“If tutors are particularly passionate about a particular product or subject, we allow them to make their own course,” Saxon said. “Our course options are always changing. There’s always new learning opportunities for the students.”
Growing up, Saxon recalled being inspired by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk’s selflessness and ingenuity. Now, Saxon looks to do the same for others.
“My goal is for students to be exposed to problem-solving techniques and exposed to robotics at a young age,” he said. “It’s to show them this stuff isn’t boring, it’s fun. By exposing to them engineering, robotics and progamming, I hope they can carry that into their older years.”