It is an undisputed fact that a significant disparity persists in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) participation rates among African Americans, as represented by data from the National Science Foundation (Hill, 2000; Hill & Johnson, 2004). African Americans continue to be marginalized in their preparation to compete with mainstream America for technical science and engineering jobs.
While the U.S. continues its historic and unique role as a leader among nations, the low number of students pursuing STEM degrees and the relative absence of underrepresented students in the STEM pipeline is becoming ever more critical, and the continuation of this trend could threaten our preeminent status. As scientific and technological requirements grow and as demographic trends indicate increasing national diversity, our nation needs to prepare students so they can contribute their talents and expertise as they initiate and support cutting-edge research.
Industry and government initiatives to recruit and retain a high-quality workforce with the appropriate academic qualifications and skill sets are hindered by the low numbers of students, especially underrepresented students, who pursue and obtain degrees in STEM. As an example, a study by the National Center for Education Statistics (2003) shows that master's degrees awarded to African-American (5.37%) and (3.29%) Hispanic students and the number of doctoral degrees awarded to African-American (2.36%) and Hispanic (2.14%) continue to be alarmingly disproportionate in the STEM disciplines.
There is considerable national concern about America's current and future global competitiveness, arising out of the country's declining competitiveness in STEM fields. That concern has reached the highest levels of government, as exemplified by President Obama's Change the Equation initiative, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve STEM education. The initiative is part of a broader White House Educate to Innovate campaign designed to lead American students to supremacy in science and math achievement over the next decade. In fact, the President further signaled the importance of STEM education with a mention of the issue in his January 25, 2011 State of the Union address.
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) created the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) to address the underrepresentation of African-American students in STEM fields, so that the United States may remain competitive in today's global economy. NSBE provides early STEM exposure to students beginning in 3rd grade through the 12th grade.
The SEEK Program succeeds in providing:
Positive, African-American, collegiate NSBE members as role models
Early exposure to math, science and engineering concepts
Group-based learning projects, designed to maximize creativity and ingenuity
No eligibility requirements
In 2007, the Battelle Memorial Institute awarded NSBE a founding grant that established the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids. The program's mission was to increase minority elementary school students' knowledge in math and science, interest in pursuing engineering careers, and educational aspirations. It currently has expanded to 17 sites in 16 cities across the United States and served more than 15,000 students. NSBE's long-term goal is to contribute to producing 10,000 black bachelor's degree recipients in engineering annually by 2025.
The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program is one of the National Society of Black Engineers' (NSBE) contributions to increasing the representation of black students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields. This 3-week program is designed to expose black children to STEM fields as early as the 3rd grade and through 12th grade. Students participate from 8:30am – 3:30pm daily, giving each student 105 contact hours per summer. The program utilizes NSBE collegiate members as student mentors, the majority of whom are black and majoring in STEM fields.
The mission of the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids is "To increase elementary school students' aptitude in math and science and their interest in pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) career fields, by having them engage in interactive, team-based engineering projects."
The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) was started in 2007 in Washington, DC with a grant from Battelle and has since expanded to 19 cities, in total, across the USA and has served more than 15,000 students since its inception. We are currently able to reach students in the following cities:
2007 - Washington, DC
2008 - Columbus, OH
2011 - San Diego, CA
2012 - Detroit, MI
New Orleans, LA
2013 - Brooklyn, NY
2014 - Atlanta, GA
2015 - Birmingham, AL
Los Angeles, CA
Curriculum and Assessments -- For the pilot SEEK program, NSBE selected A World in Motion (AWIM), an engineering curriculum for elementary and middle school children developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE), the Education Center for Development (EDC) and the National Science Foundation. Since then, NSBE has incorporated a bevy of new curriculum projects including but not limited to: Solar Car, Wind Turbine, Fuel Cell, Glider, and Gravity Cruiser, Catapult, Snaptricity, Fragrance, and Sailboat. In order to determine students' ability to retain the information taught during the program, SEEK provides a pre and post assessment. These assessments consist of three sections asking math questions, science questions, and engineering vocabulary questions that are grade-specific and reinforce appropriate Common Core Math and Next Generation Science Standards.
Mentors -- SEEK maintains a 1:6 mentor/student ratio during the program. Mentors are active members of the National Society of Black Engineers who are collegiate and technical professionals. Approximately 85% of mentors are undergraduates majoring in engineering or other STEM disciplines. Mentors receive one week of training before the start of the SEEK program from NSBE staff, the Society of Automotive Engineers, which also provides the kits, and K12 Teacher's Alliance, which provides expert instructional and classroom management training.
Parents -- Parents are key stakeholders in all SEEK programs and their involvement is crucial to the success and sustainability of SEEK. Over 1,600 parents reported attending at least one Friday competition to cheer on their students.
School Districts and Community Organizations -- NSBE has well-established relationships with school districts and community organizations across the country that are already hosting successful SEEK 3rd – 5th grade programs. School districts must be able to provide an adequate facility, classrooms, gym or other large room on each Friday for competitions, daily point of contact onsite to assist with site logistics, coordination of the Free Summer Feeding Program and an onsite nurse.
Sponsors -- SEEK sponsors were supporters who provided the necessary resources for the implementation of the program. In 2015, sponsors included both public and private entities, as well as higher education institutions and foundations. Their financial contributions ranged between $1,000 and $250,000 per organization. Some sponsors were involved additionally by engaging students directly, providing site activities.
Since the summer of 2007, NSBE conducted 62 SEEK programs across the United States.