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Engineering Camp and Mentoring Program for African American Kids in Los Angeles
By Tyler Mitchell, Sentinel Intern
Published July 14, 2017

Mentor poses with class after they completed their project. (NSBE Website Photo.)

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Northrop Grumman partnered this summer to educate and mentor African American elementary scholars on STEM. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The NSBE hosted the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) camp, at George Washington Carver Elementary School (June 25 and ends July 14).

The free camp allowed students the opportunity to engage with professional engineers and mentors, which is key to increasing the representation in STEM.

3 campers pose for the camera. (NSBE Website Photo.)

Tolu Babalola is a site leader for the SEEK camp, at George Washington Carver Elementary school. His brother introduced him to the program in 2012 when he was still in college he and has been with NSBE ever since.

“It brings me a lot of joy to reach students who don’t have the opportunity to see someone that looks like them, go to college or have a STEM background,” Babalola said. “That’s what keeps me coming back … the joy of the students.”

The three-week long camp has a different topic each week. The first week consists of aerospace engineering, where students had to create an idea of a glider, not through mechanics, but through physical functions. The second week was focused on  Civil Engineering. Students learned how to create a blueprint, architecture designs, and how things are built to work. In the last week. students get a chance to learn computer coding on the IPAD Tinker app.

“When it comes to coding, it’s really cool to see the students play with all the functions and are excited to find new codes,” said site leader member Angel Pickens.

The camp was available to students ages eight to 11. On average, the camp has 150 students attend each week. Usually, the camp takes about 300 students, but since it was the first time in a new area, NSBE went with a half camp. This year SEEK expanded to 15 cities nation wide. There are SEEK camps in Atlanta, Birmingham, Chicago, Detroit and more.

A mentor helps a camper with her aerospace engineering project. (NSBE Website Photo.)

“A lot of our students are diverse. So when it comes to recruitment of our mentor process, we look for college students that look like the students. We want to students to see that they could be in our shoes,” said Babalola.

A study by the National Center for Education Statistics (2003) shows that master’s degrees awarded to African-American (5.37%) and (3.29%) Hispanic students and the number of doctoral degrees awarded to African-American (2.36%) and Hispanic (2.14%) continue to be alarmingly disproportionate in the STEM disciplines. NSBE created SEEK to raise these statistics, in these communities.

SEEK is now in its 11th year, and is the nation’s largest summer engineering program geared toward African American pre-college students. The program is in the midst of a large, three-year expansion, funded by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, earmarked for NSBE and its project partners Purdue University and Virginia Tech. The goal of NSBE through SEEK is to get 10,000 African American students to graduate with a STEM degree by 2025.

For more SEEK information and opportunities next year visit www.nsbe.org/seek.

Students wave to the camera as the complete their camp project. (NSBE Website Photo.)

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