Grant Aims to Boost Equity in Robotics and Engineering
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Science Foundation awarded
a $2.4 million grant for a
program that aims to introduce black middle school girls to robotics and engineering and nurturing
their interest through high school and beyond.
new Ujima Girls in Robotics Leadership (GIRL) Project is a free,
hands-on engineering and robotics program designed to teach
engineering and leadership in a culturally relevant environment to
girls in middle and high school. The program is being
run by the University
of California Davis'
for Integrated Computing and STEM Education (C-STEM).
Ujima GIRL Camp takes an existing program, C-STEM's GIRL/GIRL+
camps, and adds a cultural component for African
American students. "Ujima" is a Swahili word for
"collective work and responsibility," which, organizers
explained, is an important principle in many black/African American
program will work with community colleges in the state and the Umoja
Community Education Foundation, to recruit African
American college students to lead each camp, develop curriculum and
serve as mentors.
program leaders noted, introducing girls to STEM activities in middle
school and nurturing that interest through high school increases the
likelihood that they'll stay in the field. The expectation is that by
supporting black girls' STEM skills in "identity-affirming, fun
and supportive environments," access barriers will lower and
engagement with STEM will persist.
project is being led by an interdisciplinary team:
vision is to build a "mentoring pipeline" that will keep
participants involved from their first Ujima GIRL Camp through
college. Ujima GIRL Camp alumni could return as assistant coaches
when they reach high school and also participate in the GIRL+ Camp.
GIRL/GIRL+ alumni in college can return as coaches. In addition,
Cheng also wants to encourage participants to create their own Ujima
GIRL clubs within their local schools, where they can share their
experiences with other girls.
the first three years, the program expects to host 48 Ujima GIRL and
48 GIRL+ camps statewide, nurturing about 2,000 students. If
successful, the team hopes to increase that number and expand the
want to give students a life-changing experience and inspire them to
go into college, post-secondary studies and careers in STEM,"
said Cheng, in a statement. "This program will help them make a
real-world connection with math, because we want to give them the
tools to be successful in their academic programs and learn in the
is an exciting opportunity to further encourage the creativity,
leadership and scientific genius of black girls and young women in
ways that many don't have access to in their day-to-day schooling,"
added Mustafaa. "I am hopeful about the mutually empowering
benefit of this project for the participants, our research team, and
everyone else involved."
grant will illuminate the talent that our black girls already have
inside them and provide a safe and nurturing environment for growth
and development," said Aldredge.
program is expected to launch next summer.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.