Pre-College Initiative Program of the Year
Center for Youth in Engineering and Science (YES Center),
Beverly Johnson, Executive Director, YES Center
Excitement filled the air on the campus of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, as middle and high school students prepared their robots for the annual Botball Competition. The competition is hosted each year by the Youth in Engineering and Science (YES) Center and the NYU-Poly NSBE Chapter. All of the participating teams of students were scrambling frantically to assemble their robots using the fundamentals of programming they learned beforehand.
“We didn’t mention the M-word right away,” says Beverly Johnson, who serves as the associate dean of undergraduate admissions at NYU-Poly, executive director of the YES Center and advisor for the NYU-Poly NSBE Chapter. “Before we mention the M-word, for math, we let them go experiment and work on the robots and then we tell them that the way they were thinking is related to a math formula.”
NYU-Poly’s YES Center, along with the college’s NSBE Chapter, host and fund a Botball competition annually. This is the first of many strategies designed to introduce New York City children to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs.
YES developed from a program initially involving Brooklyn Technical High School and the Pratt Institute. The success of the original high school-oriented program grew into a city-wide effort that now include programs geared toward elementary, middle and high school students. In addition to having a mathematics prep course, the YES Center also offers a series of college preview programs in which high school students come on campus and take college courses. The charge for these courses is set at $200 per class — far below the standard cost of $4,000.
“We have junior high school students taking college courses in this program now,” Johnson says. “They walk away with a year’s worth of course credit. So instead of paying for four years of college wherever they may go, their parents only pay for three.”
Roger Witherspoon is a journalist and author based in New York.