Project Exploration Summer Camp: Building STEM Interest and Skill

Project Exploration has always been present, providing opportunities to young people in our city and exposing them to the most important STEM fields today. A Case Study on Moving the STEM Fence: Exposing STEM to Minority Youth Who are Oftentimes Not Aware of Such Opportunities studied the impact that exposing students to STEM during summer camp. Early identification and on-going nurturing can be very effective in helping move the STEM fence in order to embrace some who might not otherwise have the opportunity.

Explore Engineering: Rocketry

This summer we had the pleasure of having two incredible high school programs. Especially our Explore Engineering: Rocketry program, where 15 High School students participated in a 6-week virtual program in which they worked with their facilitator to learn about aerospace engineering and building rockets. At the end of the program, the students successfully launched 15 rockets. Among these students was Nicholas who was an outstanding 8th-grade student, who had the opportunity to work alongside the high schoolers on this project. When asked about his experience in the program and why he decided to join and he was very excited to share his thoughts, saying: – “I really want to be an astronaut when I grow up, or at least be a NASA engineer helping astronauts meet new heights. That was very fun [speaking about the rocket launch]. Not only we were able to launch our rockets and find out which one went the furthest, but we got to see each other in person. Even though I didn’t meet my standards with my rocket, I made it. If I made it as a 13-year-old anybody who’s older can definitely make it”. – Nicholas is one of many students who successfully completed the Explore Engineering: Rocketry program. It was impressive to see how these young people were able to create meaningful interpersonal relationships and completed their projects in the virtual space.

STEM Mentors Make a Difference!

All of this was made possible by the excellent work of our STEM Facilitator, Omar Takadoum, who was dedicated to working with our students. Mentorship is a two-way street, Omar expressed gratitude and was very proud of their accomplishments – “I am immensely proud of the hard work all of them have put into creating their very own homemade rockets from scratch, using simple everyday home materials. Not only were the launches successful, but we were also able to recover most of the rockets undamaged, thanks to the parachutes that we made together. I would like to give special thanks to Alexandra Lopez, Naomi Oster, and Sarah Tinsman, for their unwavering support throughout this adventure, and for welcoming me to the Project Exploration family with open arms. This has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, and I am excited to witness what these #futureengineers will accomplish next!”.

Going Beyond Project Exploration!

We also had the opportunity of exposing Nicholas to another program thanks to one of our partners from OBAP (Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals), Titus Sanders who extended the invitation. Nicholas was able to attend the Higher Orbits flagship program: Go For Launch. Higher Orbits is a non-profit that uses space to promote STEM/STEAM while building teamwork, leadership, and communication skills. At the event, students were able to work with an astronaut, as well as other space and STEM professionals, and compete to have their experiment flown into space. Nicholas’ team won one of the challenges where they had to answer the question, what robots fictional or nonfictional help humanity the most? and propose a model. Nicholas said that they chose WALL-E and the ghosts from the video game Destiny 2, because – “WALL-E revived the planet and the ghosts helped the planet from dying.” We are very proud of Nicolas and his accomplishments in our program. Nicholas continues to participate in our programs, for the Fall he is joining the mechanical engineering program where he will work with our facilitator Omar once again for 6 weeks.

We are also pleased that in addition to getting great skill development, PE STEM@home programs have uniquely positioned family engagement. Take a moment to watch Nicholas and his dad talk about his experience at Go For Launch.

Nicholas is just one face of over 800 students PE aims to serve in 2021

Our greatest strength has always been relationships; relationships with our young people, parents, and partners. We build community through STEM and fight for equitable opportunities for all young Chicagoans.

When the world fell into chaos this year and shuttered schools turned to e-learning, we knew students of all backgrounds would experience learning loss. However, we also knew our students would not be able to lean on community wealth to help them catch up. In fact, many didn’t even have access to the internet and devices at home. Our community turned to us for support and we stepped up. STEM@home was born as the homes of our staff transformed into virtual classrooms and STEMkit fulfillment centers. Compared to the same time last year, PE is serving 300% more students with high-quality, community-building STEM programs and has delivered over 2,000 STEMkits.

Moving into 2021, we are still just scraping the surface of the need. New prospective Chicago Public School partners continue to reach out, requesting urgent support for their students and teachers. While our model is scalable, we cannot serve more students without the support of people like you. We urge you to consider a gift to help us increase the number of students benefiting from exposure to STEM and the support of caring mentors.

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