Science, technology, engineering, and math are have become a major focus for many educational programs, both inside and outside Delaware schools. The Boys & Girls Club on Delaware State University’s campus is no exception.
Every Monday and Wednesday, elementary- and middle-school students from the DSU and Simon Circle Boys & Girls Clubs explore topics such as math, computer science, forensic biology, chemistry and optic engineering through hands-on experiments in a program called The Explorers Club.
The program will culminate when two teams of students form the DSU program that will compete against 24 local teams in a Lego robotics competition. Teams that qualify will then move on to the state competition and will have the chance to qualify for nationals, where they can compete for college scholarships.
Programs like these are important because they make science fun for kids, said Desso Bryant, program director for the Simon Circle Boys & Girls Club.
“This program is awesome,” he said. “It’s a spin on S.T.E.M; sometimes those areas can be intimidating but this approach shows the children that it’s fun and that they do have what it takes to learn and excel in these areas ... and to show that learning is fun, it’s just how you approach it.”
The Explorers Club has helped fifth grader Katara Brown foster an interest in science.
“I like it because we get to explore new things by building a robot,” Katara said. “I like learning new things and I always wanted to learn more about science.”
The theme for the Explorers club, which began on Sept. 9 and continue through Jan. 18, 2014, is “Nature’s Fury.” Students are tasked with using Lego robots to maneuver through a board set up with natural disaster scenarios and use their robots to solve them. Scenarios include everything from removing a tiny Lego tree branch from a palm tree without touching nearby power lines, to using a robot to elevate a house before a hurricane.
Fifth grader Dabionna Brown is one of roughly 60 students currently enrolled in the program. Her favorite part of the program is building the robots, she said.
“We use Lego pieces and little motors and a responder so that when you talk to it and tell it to do something it will start moving and do it,” she said.
These tasks help students develop their skills in team work, amongst other things, said Dr. Eric Cheek, director of continuing education and summer programs at Delaware State University.
“So many times in math classes kids say ‘I’ll never use this,’” Cheek said. “This shows them how they can use math in a practical way.”
Page 2 of 2 - S.T.E.M. is also important because it offers students the opportunity to work in career fields that typically pay 20 to 30 percent more than most jobs, Cheek said.
The program teaches students everything from higher-level math like algebra, scientific terms, engineering and writing skills, said Wendy Harris, interim program director for the DSU Boys & Girls Club.
“Everything we do in the world is about science, technology, engineering and math,” Harris said. “We have to have the engineers and the designers. What better way than to start now and to start with children that we sometimes call disadvantaged, who can now have a future and a focus.”