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Summer camp exposes youth to STEM fields

Urban League of Greater Miami’s Achievement Matters program

Ashley Montgomery | 7/31/2014, 9 a.m.
Urban League of Greater Miami has been working diligently since 1943 to improve the lives of Blacks through education, economic ...

Urban League of Greater Miami has been working diligently since 1943 to improve the lives of Blacks through education, economic self-sufficiency and strong families. Last week, they continued that tradition by bringing 12 Liberty City students an opportunity to explore what STEM (science, technology, education and mathematics) as part of their “Achievement Matters” program.

Led by Robert Henley, communication director for Southeastern Conference of Seventh Day Adventist, a 5-day summer camp allowed youth to enhance their STEM identity. At the end of the camp, a competition was held to allow the students to showcase their skills in front of their parents and peers.

A current middle school teacher, Henley also spends his time conducting robotics camps and training events for teachers throughout the year about how important STEM is to Black youth.

In his slideshow presentation, he shared with the audience facts: “There are more Black NFL rookies than there are Black Ph.D holders.” Also, “Only 4 percent of Blacks go into STEM-related fields.” Even more startling: “There are over one million unfilled STEM jobs in the country.”

“They’ve done a lot this week and they worked really hard,” Henley said. “I am making a commitment to take them all to Tennessee for the First Lego League Global Innovation Award — I want to continue this.”

Henley went on to praise the students for the dedication to the program. He said that the program normally takes six months, but the group learned how to calculate vehicles dimensions, vehicle performance and vehicle dynamics in just a week.

“I’ve seen STEM, but never at this level,” Elaine Rozier, a fifth grade science teacher at Liberty City Elementary school said. “It was a very hands-on program as opposed to traditional classroom learning — they were doing things around the clock.”

Parents were surprised to see their child had learned how to make and program fully functional robots. This camp indeed created an interest in Liberty City children.

“As a result of this program, I want to be an animator,” Stariek Moncreiffe, 14, said. “I’ve been to many STEM camps over the years and this one was the most hands-on.”

Henley was sure to make note of his excitement to get young girls involved in STEM. Of the 12 students, majority of them were girls.

“I learned a lot of science and math this summer,” Nehemie Pluviose, 12, said. “I learned how they go hand-in-hand in order to program the robots.”

It is necessary for today’s youth to have a solid STEM education if they are to compete in this global economy and create the next generation technologies, create advanced diseases and solve the world’s greatest challenges.

The winning teams from the competition won iPad Minis.