Boys and Girls Club gets children involved with STEM
JEFFERSON CITY – The Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City received a $1.5 million STEM or science, mathematics, engineering and mathematics grant for students to experiment with STEM technology.
“It was our dream to bring that kind of program to elementary children in Jefferson City, so we’re very fortunate that we’re able to do that,” Stephanie Johnson, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City said.
When 10-year-old Ian Wheeler heard the news he was ecstatic.
“That is totally awesome!” he said. “I get to build and show people my special skills to build stuff.”
Ian is an avid Lego builder who’s made tons of creations.
“The Hulk, a Ninjago motorcycle, a snake a robot, like a bunch of robots,” he said.
With the help of the grant, Ian will have the chance to build even more robots and possibly provide himself with opportunities for the future.
“There are not a lot of minority children that get an opportunity to get exposed to the STEM field,” Johnson said. “In fact, very few African-Americans pursue a career in STEM and not a lot of females as well. Our goal is to really expose the children that come to the Boys and Girls Club that not only is this a fun thing to do, but this is a potential career for them as well.”
STEM is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States. According to the United States Department of Commerce, STEM degree holders can expect to earn 12 percent more than non-degree STEM holders. But, according to the National Science Foundation, minorities don’t have a big presence in the field. Only six percent of Hispanics work in STEM and four percent of African-Americans work in the STEM.
As a former elementary school teacher and a current doctoral student at the MU School of Information Sciences and Learning Technologies, Carl Hewitt said there is great demand for minorities in the field, but the representation just isn’t there.
“When it comes to students who may be interested or just opening the door to students that would say, you know I’m kind of interested in this, they don’t see themselves there,” Hewitt said.
“There is high need in regards to persons of color being in this field because that’s how the field moves forward,” Hewitt said. “Even if it’s just a small inkling, that this sounds interesting, you being there, is going to change everything.”