Chapter of the Year!

By Donna M. Owens

NSBE members at work: The weekly meetings of the Northland High School NSBE Jr. Chapter, in Columbus, Ohio, are centered on science, technology, engineering and math enrichment activities.

Nathan Harris is a senior at Northland High School in Columbus, Ohio, where the honors student has a 4.3 grade-point average. He juggles a busy schedule of academics and extracurricular activities, from being the drum major of the school’s marching band to the president of Northland High School STEM Club.

Every Tuesday after school, he and dozens of other STEM Club members meet in the cafeteria from 2:45 to 4:30 p.m. for activities centered on science, technology, engineering and math enrichment.
“It’s my fourth year,” said Harris, 17, during a recent telephone interview. “I like math and science, and I’ve always been a fan of computers. The club helps us apply what we learn in class. It’s fun.”
Affiliated with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the STEM Club is chartered as the Northland High School NSBE Jr. Chapter and is part of the Society’s Pre-College Initiative Program. The club membership has grown by leaps and bounds since the group was founded in 2007. Most of its members are of African descent, and a nearly equal number of boys and girls hold leadership positions with the chapter.
“We started with about nine students,” says Sybil Brown, Ph.D., a math and pre-engineering instructor, who founded the club and now advises it, along with Teri Keller. “Today, we have about 80 active members, and we’re the largest STEM club in the school district.”
Student members have created inventions — for instance, Evin Moss, Monika Barton and Andrea de La Rosa developed an at-home physical therapy system — and the club has taken part in regional, national and international competitions, including NSBE’s annual Try-Math-A-Lon, iDESIGN and US FIRST Robotics matches. To participate in these events, Northland teams have traveled to Las Vegas, Nev., Milwaukee, Wis.; Indianapolis, Ind.; St. Louis, Mo., and even abroad, to Toronto, Canada. And they have consistently landed in the top ranks.
“Since 2007, we have won a number of prizes: first, second or third place,” says Nicole Harris, mother of Nathan Harris and president of the Northland STEM Parents Association, a PTA-style group that formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to support STEM Club endeavors. “There’s a lot of excitement around the success of our students.”
Last year, the Parents Association took the lead in fundraising that enabled more than 40 club members to attend the 2012 NSBE Annual Convention in Pittsburgh, Pa. The STEM Club also receives funding from the Columbus City school district, The Ohio State University’s Minority Engineering Program and corporations such as Honda, which have provided generous financial support.
Four of Northland’s seven valedictorians in 2012 were members of the STEM Club, and many of Dr. Brown’s former students have earned college scholarships — including Battelle and Gates Millennium Scholarships, among the most highly competitive and prestigious awards in the country.
“We have had a Gates winner every year since 2009,” Dr. Brown reports, proudly. “We have former students who now have engineering degrees, and some are in colleges across the country and abroad. That’s a very big deal for us.”
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