Our Winter LaunchPad cohort recently wrapped up but we’ll continue to showcase recent Equinent grads, as we gear up for our next cohort in April. Up next in our Spotlight: Black Unicorn Education! Check out founder Ora Tanner’s story below.

Black Unicorn EducationTM is tech education done differently! It is a culmination of 20+ years of “testing and tinkering” with innovative ways to teach complex topics in science and technology. I’ve taught everything from physics and astronomy to entrepreneurship and artificial intelligence. I’ve discovered these topics are no more difficult to learn than any other subject. Success is largely dependent on who designs the learning and how they design it!

I started my career as a nuclear physicist. I earned both a B.S. and M.S. in Physics, however, my journey was an uphill battle as a Black woman in the space. Methods used to teach physics (and every other STEM field for that matter) focused on technical aspects. The images, terminology, examples, and everything was grounded in the perspectives and experiences of a specific group– mainly white and male. Learning physics this way made me feel: Disconnected. Uninterested. Like I didn’t belong. Cold. And to be honest– it was boring most times.

After getting married and starting a family, I made a career switch into the field of education where I became an 8th-grade science educator at a Title I school. I vowed my students would never feel the way I did while learning physics. They would love science! They would feel smart and intelligent! It would be relevant! It would be fun! It would be interesting! I would use their contexts and their communities to teach scientific concepts. I would make sure they felt seen and heard. And I did just that!

When I taught chemical reactions, I had my students cook food so they could observe changes real-time. For the topic of acids and bases, I invited my hair stylist to show how they were used in relaxers and hair coloring! To understand Newton’s Laws we went out on the field and played football and ran track. My students were engaged and more importantly, they built confidence in their ability to understand and explain complex concepts in science that related to their lives.

I discovered the best learning takes place through conversations, impromptu moments when something goes “wrong”, or just trying things out and seeing what happens. Informal education works brilliantly not just for science learning but also for technology education. In 2020, I co-founded a non-profit and developed an activities-based curriculum to teach high school students from untapped communities artificial intelligence. The curriculum was used by 30,000 students in nine states and 15 countries.

In 2022, as a member of the Fall 2022 cohort of Equity in Entrepreneurship, I launched my second business called Black Unicorn EducationTM. We educate families,  with a prioritization on Black families, about the impacts and opportunities of emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and metaverse by providing informal education resources and a dynamic learning community. We are THE go-to resource for informal learning about emerging technologies centering issues of interest that highlight Black communities. The premise behind Black Unicorn is to build learning experiences about technology that center Black communities and highlight their perspectives and contexts.

Through support and guidance from Equity in Entrepreneurship mentors and instructors, Black Unicorn has piloted several informal learning resources including: virtual seminars on Facebook Live that have garnered thousands of views; developed a card game called AI Fact or Fiction? that was piloted with dozens of families during STEAMFest at the Florida State Fair sponsored by AMRoC FabLab; more than 100 pieces of AI art and text were generated using Dall E2 and ChatGPT during AI “Tinker Sessions”. Later in 2023, we will release a series of Tech Readers about AI, blockchain, and metaverse, in addition to several other product bundles.

The vision of Black Unicorn EducationTM is to start a movement where Black brilliance in tech is acknowledged and normalized. We want to inform, empower, and inspire all people, especially families in Black communities to collectively engage with technology and become its creators, influencers, innovators and decision-makers for public good. With the help of the Equity in Entrepreneurship program I was able to move my idea from concept phase to actually putting it out in the world within a short period of time. I am extremely excited about the momentum that is building and look forward to impacting Black communities with informal tech education.

Please sign up for our email list on our website: https://blackunicorneducation.com/

Email:   ora@blackunicorneducation.com

Founder & CEO:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/oradtanner/

Instagram:  @blackunicorneducation

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If you’d like to be part of our next cohort in April, visit our Contact page to let us know!