New STEM Lab opens: Raising the next generation of tech professionals
A new study warns that Alabama could face a shortage of 200,000 skilled workers within the next five years. But, a North Alabama Boys and Girls Club is doing their part to change that and help bring up the next generation of STEM professionals.
When the 3rd Street Boys and Girls Club in Decatur opened the doors of its brand new STEM Lab, local kids stepped into what could be their future.
Angela O’Neil, STEM Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs North Alabama stated, “We really want to get kids interested now in science and tech so they can go into those really high tech jobs.” She adds, “There’s going to be a big, huge shortage of engineers nationally. So, we took a look at that and thought – ‘Oh my gosh we’ve got to do something about that.”
Tech Giant, 3M was there to help with a grant to get the lab up and running. Monica Cottingham, and Engineer, 3M in North Alabama says, “We see these kids in here really enjoying this and really understanding how much fun STEM can be.”
The new lab will give kids the chance to access technology in tangible ways – complete with 3D printers, virtual reality, drones, robotics, and tablets. The lab will allow students to see themselves working with this equipment in the future as STEM professionals.
Boys & Girls Club kids were asked if they like the new lab and got some pretty passionate responses. Seven year old, Calvin Valentine said, “YES! I love technology.” Unfortunately, access to a high-quality STEM education isn’t offered for all. People of color are underrepresented in the STEM workforce, and in some cases, the disparity starts in the classroom.
A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of African-American and Latino students don’t offer Algebra II — a prerequisite for many higher-level STEM courses — and a third of these schools do not offer chemistry. This New Lab aims to bridge that gap.
Angela O’Neil says, “A lot of it is exposure honestly. What you see every single day is what you become.” Kids at the 3rd Street Boys and Girls Club will have the chance to see themselves in a future they might not have considered before. There’s also a shortage of STEM educators, the new STEM Lab will also offer professional development to equip the teachers of tomorrow.
*Article credit to a WZDX story here: