Arlyn Owens, understands the potential of pursuing a career that matches one’s true interests and passions. Every day, Arlyn works closely with universities to find and recruit talented, future professionals in Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) fields and to build a pipeline of future PPG leaders. According to Arlyn, university students preparing for a career in a field they are passionate about often were exposed to STEM at a young age – even elementary school.
For young students like Bella Amore, an engineering career may seem impossible. Supporting Bella and her brother on a $19,000 annual salary, Bella’s mother often struggles financially. Despite the adversities the family faces, Bella and her mother strive to seek the best education possible and were thrilled when Bella thrived in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK).
Priming the next generation of professionals
PPG and the PPG Foundation teamed up with the NSBE to launch the national SEEK program in Pittsburgh, Pa. and help prime the next generation of minority technical professionals, computer scientists, engineers and more. For students like Bella in grades three to five, the SEEK program offers a gateway to a future STEM career. NSBE is on a mission to graduate 10,000 black engineers annually by 2025, and the SEEK program provides an early start.
By spending three weeks in the summer of 2019 immersed in hands-on STEM curriculum, Pittsburgh-area students worked in teams to build prototypes and explore real-world engineering solutions all while discovering the underlying math and science principles involved in these processes. The project teams were modeled after those that would exist at a professional engineering firm. The students adopted the roles of project managers, safety engineers and more, then brought their designs to life to compete against other teams.
For one student team, creating a medieval-era inspired catapult to launch items over a mock Great Wall of China not only created an opportunity for creativity and learning, but also engaged PPG employee volunteers.
Our employee engineers and scientists judged the competition by measuring the catapults’ accuracy and distance. They questioned the student teams and encouraged confidence in their personal and team work.
According to Kia Croom, director of SEEK fundraising, the experience doesn’t end when the SEEK program concludes . “Many times SEEK students continue with the program and pursue additional opportunities through NSBE to continue their exposure and growth within STEM subjects,” said Kia. “The PPG grant allows students to find and explore their passions in STEM fields, open their eyes to future possibilities, and most importantly, grow their self-esteem and confidence that one day they can be successful engineers or scientists.”
As for Arlyn, he hopes to meet SEEK Pittsburgh program participants again in the future as they pursue STEM-related degrees and careers.
“When students are motived and inspired to find their natural talents and interests early on, their eyes are opened, their minds are engaged, and we move closer to the goal of graduating and employing more African American engineers,” said Arlyn.
Watch this video to learn more about SEEK and see the students in action.