Brooklyn Community Foundation has plans of offering a grant amounting to $500,000 to further develop an existing program, which would attract engineering students to work as mentors in Brooklyn Schools.
According to Marilyn Gelber, who is the President of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, this program, Central Brooklyn Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative is managed by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and would create magic when teachers, students and young engineers mingle together with robots in a classroom. The program was launched in 2007 and is now found in 18 schools for students from the fifth to the ninth grades. The additional funding obtained from donors and the grant money would extend the program to include 36 schools in a period of three years. The STEM initiative has so far received $800,000 from the Brooklyn Community Foundation.
Marilyn states that they would like to see it grow beyond robots and include more intensive math and science in the program. The NYU Poly graduate engineering students would work along with the teachers in the classroom to help in developing projects using robots as key tools, for teaching basic science and math concepts. According to Vikram Kapila, a Professor at NYU Poly and the Principal Investigator of the program, introducing robots into the mix attracts the students. The students not only operate the robot but they also help in building and programming it to perform certain set tasks. To do this, the children understand that they have to know underlying math and science theories behind such technology. Despite having access to Xbox, cell phones and Internet the students still find it difficult to grasp the concepts used in such kinds of technology.
Dr. Kapila says that even though everyone hopes that the children would become so interested in these, maths, science and engineering subjects that they would take up science as a career in the future According to him, the mentors too gain a lot as they share their research subjects with the students by converting complicated research into simpler non technical matter for the kids to understand. It would also be a practice run for them before they go for meetings or interviews with venture capitalists. This program is also expected to generate a conduit for talented students who would pursue a career in engineering in the future. Dr. Kapila further mentioned that through this program, they would be creating better engineers and scientists who would be able to communicate their work in simpler terms, and also develop a new generation of science and engineering students.