Linden Welcomes 300 Engineers-In-Training

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For lots of people summer camp means sitting around a campfire and roasting marshmallows. But there was a different type of camp happening at St. Stephen’s Community House this summer.

Battelle donated 1 million dollars to the National Society of Black Engineers for SEEK camp: The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids. Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers Carl Mack says the camp started three years ago.

“We don’t have enough African Americans in Engineering. Engineering is about solving problems: Scientific problems, Societal problems how well can you think? When you got those types of skills, there’s nothing that you cannot do,” says Mack.

The 300 elementary school children worked in teams for three weeks designing gliders, skimmers and toy cars.

[BITE: 3, 2, 1 Cheer]

While the kids may sound like science enthusiasts now, they weren’t at first. On the camp’s first day, only 5% of the children said they’d consider going to college and study engineering. But on the camp’s last day it’s 80%.

The camp targets children aged 10 to 12. Battelle’s Rich Rosen explains the importance of targeting that age group.

“We’re born scientists. We put things in our mouth. We touch things that somebody says don’t touch it’s too hot and then we touch it. But once we start teaching algebra and math as sterile topics, people loose interest,” says Rosen.

The camp dovetails with the initiative of converting Linden McKinley High School into a STEM school. STEM schools emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in their course curricula.

Rosen says it’s especially important to teach science to today’s kids.

“The fields of Science Engineering and math we are loosing ground as a country. But more importantly everything that happens in the 21st century requires these types of skills,” says Rosen.

The camp curriculum aims to get kids excited about engineering with hands-on projects. But is that all it takes?

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A few minutes at the camp reveals how the mentors play a big role in the kids’ experience at the camp. Mack explains the mentors come from as far away as Texas. “When you start educating about the disparity of African Americans in the field of engineering These mentors have decided you know, I’m gonna spend my summer exposing another African American child to engineering,” says Mack.

Many of the mentors, like Kyle Hardy, come from the Linden area.

“I live around here so it feels good to feel like you’re helping someone that’s close to you,” says Hardy.

The SEEK camp is growing. In addition to the Columbus camp, there’s also one in Washington, DC. Mack envisions a future where SEEK camps pop up in cities across the US.

“We gonna have 100,000 kids studying to be engineers. I’m telling you it will happen,” says Mack.

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