Joe Cahaly at Holy Trinity

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Joe Cahaly, a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Class of 2024, spoke about “Teaching in Armenia: An MIT Student’s Experience at the TUMO Center” on Sunday, April 30, during “Trinity Talks,” the monthly parishioner-led presentation following church services at Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge.

During January, Cahaly, along with 20 fellow MIT students, undergraduates and graduates in all majors, participated in the four-week MIT International Science and Technology Initiative (MISTI) in Armenia. This past summer, he participated in a similar teaching program in Singapore through the MIT-Singapore MISTI program.

In preparation for teaching in Armenia, Cahaly was asked to develop a curriculum on Artificial Intelligence (AI) that he would teach at two TUMO Centers for Creative Technologies. The first two-week “learning lab” was at the flagship TUMO Center in Yerevan and the second two weeks were at the TUMO Center in Dilijan. At each center, the daily, four-hour after-school “learning labs” were held from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The TUMO Centers offer free after-school educational programs for 12- to18-year-olds. The standard curriculum begins with a “self-learning period” followed by classes taught by TUMO Instructors, Joe explained.  Additionally, there are more intensive “learning labs” to which he was assigned and led.

“The students are highly motivated, curious, intelligent and eager to learn. They share a strong work ethic and are invested in learning,” Cahaly commented. Most students were in high school, a few in college. All had prior coding experience, which was a prerequisite for the class.

Most of the students in his class in Yerevan were girls and lived nearby. In Dilijan, however, most were boys who lived in villages and commuted. Some from far away stayed at the TUMO Center. Six students from Artsakh, due to the blockade, were unable to make the journey to join the classes or participate virtually because of lack of electricity. The classes were videoed to be available later.

Joe Cahaly with Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Church

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When asked about resources and materials available for the students, he shared that they were ample, as benefactors are generously providing the financial resources needed. The TUMO Center in Yerevan, founded in 2011 — its flagship location — is presently undergoing a major expansion of its facility to accommodate more students. To date, TUMO Centers serve over 20,000 students with a waiting list. TUMO offers programs throughout Armenia. Some are fully functioning centers including TUMO in Yerevan, Dilijan, Gyumri and Stepanakert. Also, TUMO Boxes, easy-to-move units, low-cost and technically equipped, are located throughout the country to provide access for students from more remote villages.

Impressive as well is that TUMO Centers have also opened in Paris, Beirut, Moscow, Tirana, Berlin, Kyiv, Lyon, with additional centers expected to open in Los Angeles and Portugal. Licensing revenues in international locations contribute to the long-term sustainability of TUMO in Armenia and Artsakh.

Cahaly spoke about the presence of multi-national information and communication technology (ICT) companies in Armenia, naming Pixar and Nvidia as examples. These companies are providing an economic incentive to prompt many to stay in Armenia, he noted.

In addition, he shared that excursions and programs were thoughtfully planned for the MIT students. These included visits to historical sites, monasteries and museums as well attractions such as waterfall hiking. Joe also spoke of exploring Armenia on his own daily, taking a taxi to a site and then walking or hiking back many miles, sharing memorable encounters along the way.

Innovative initiatives both at the TUMO Center and MIT are impacting the lives of students in extraordinary ways. This is an investment in human capital that is strengthening ties and commitment, a win-win.

The “Trinity Talks” reception was hosted by Glenn and Rebecca Tellalian Cahaly, Diana Topjian and Don and Barbara Tellalian.

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