Kaylin Jones is a 5th grader at Greenbelt Elementary in Maryland. She loves school, earns straight A’s and calls math and science her favorite subjects. So last year, when Kaylin’s mother found a summer program geared toward kids and focused on science, technology, engineering and math, she thought her 10-year-old would be excited about attending.

Mom was mistaken — at least at first.

“When I first told her about it, she didn’t want to go,” says Pamela Sibert. “But she’s very bright and so good at science and math, I thought we should give it a try.”

Kaylin wound up having a great time at NSBE’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK), in Washington, D.C. The free, three-week academy, now in its eighth year, is designed to get more African-American students in grades K–12 into the pipeline to engineering careers. Last year, elementary and middle school students in 10 cities across the U.S. engaged in SEEK’s hands-on, team-based engineering design activities. The day program is led by NSBE college students, called “SEEK mentors,” who guide the younger students through the curriculum and serve as role models. SEEK’s curriculum was provided by NSBE’s partner in the program, SAE International, and by San Diego Gas & Electric Company.

SEEK mentor Tyrrick Nance, 22, a NSBE member from Maryland, says the SEEK D.C. students worked well together and used their knowledge to solve problems and create products.

“We helped them discover the math and science principles behind everything,” says Nance, a senior at Grambling University majoring in electronics engineering technology, and math. “And we played different games to reinforce the academic lessons.”

Each week, he says, the students took on a new project, doing presentations and finishing up with a design competition on Fridays.

Kaylin enjoyed it.

“I liked the stuff we were doing, like building (model) cars,” she says. “We put an engine in, and it could even move.”

Kaylin, who only knew one person when she first started the program, met dozens of girls and boys.

“I made new friends,” she says.

Kaylin has a physical disability that affects her legs and makes walking painful, and her mother appreciated the caring and support her daughter received at SEEK.

“She’s had all kinds of surgeries and was on crutches,” says Sibert, who explains that the school site where the academy was held had many stairs but no elevator. “Mr. Nance basically carried her around on his back — to the cafeteria, outside and everywhere else. I don’t know what my daughter would have done without that help. I gave him a gift to thank him.”

For his part, Nance says he was happy to assist Kaylin and all of the other children.

“I really loved working with them,” he says.

Kaylin describes Nance as her “favorite” mentor. And apparently, what she learned at the camp has her thinking about her future.

“I want to be a scientist,” she says.

This summer, her mom won’t have to convince her to sign up for SEEK.

“It was fun,” she says. “I would like to return.”

“Mr. Nance basically carried her around on his back…. I don’t know what my daughter would have done without that help.” — SEEK parent Pamela Sibert