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A small Stafford County company that offers hands-on engineering classes for children will soon have an outpost in India.
A group of boys attending a recent birthday party at Engineering for Kids cheers as they watch the Lego robots they built battle each other.
DAVE ELLIS/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY CATHY JETT
A New Delhi couple were searching online for after-school programs they could offer in India.
They wanted something different to satisfy the demands of the growing number of dual-income parents who don't want their children parked in front of the TV or a computer for hours.
Siddarth and Aparna Todi found what they were looking for at Engineering for Kids, a Stafford County company that teaches engineering basics in fun, hands-on classes. They recently purchased its first international franchise, and have been at its corporate headquarters this week for training.
"This program is not taught [in India] right now," said Aparna Todi. "There is robotics there, but not the other programs that Engineering for Kids is offering. We thought it would be unique."
After-school programs such as the ones Engineering for Kids offers are expected to be a billion-dollar industry in India, where 540 million people are under the age of 25.
"It's a very big market, and a very growing market," said Siddarth Todi. "People want to have the best education, and there's a lot more awareness of the need [for after-school programs]."
Dori Roberts, who used to teach technology engineering at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, started Engineering for Kids in 2007. Her inspiration was her son Matthew, then a 3-year-old, who came along to watch her high school team compete in a Virginia Technology Student Association competition.
He loved seeing all the animatronic devices, rubber-band-powered model aircraft and other things that teams from across the state had created. She decided to simplify the projects she'd been doing with her students so 6- to 12-year-olds could do them.
Roberts offered her first class as an after-school program for elementary school students, then as a weeklong summer camp at the Courthouse Community Center in Stafford.
Today she oversees the corporate learning center in Aquia Park Shopping Center off U.S. 1, has a new corporate office at 100 Riverside Parkway and has sold 15 franchises. Besides New Delhi, they are in nine states from Virginia to California.
"I was thinking that in the first year we'd sell 12 [franchises]," Roberts said. "We just hit a year, so we're above our goal."