Innovative Learning Program prepares middle school boys for STEM careers

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Students here are spending part of their summer break in the classroom. Thursday, more than one hundred middle school boys from around the Miami Valley were attending the Verizon Innovative Learning program hosted by Central State University-Dayton.

The three-week, immersive program gives male, minority students hands-on experience with STEM-related activities. The participants work with CSU students and instructors within STEM fields to learn about potential careers.

“Opening the world up to them and saying, ‘Look at all of the possibilities that exist,'” said Verizon spokesperson Steve Van Dinter. “Giving them these skills ahead of time will really, really help them out.”

Wednesday, the middle schoolers were building and programming robots, learning about coding and circuits, and practicing using augmented and virtual reality to solve real-world issues.

“It’s pretty cool,” Isaac Grimes, 14, said of the opportunity to practice STEM skills.

After the summer session, students will continue working with mentors and return to CSU monthly for STEM education courses.

Van Dinter said the coursework also helps with academic performance, with students showing an almost 90 percent improvement on science and math scores following their participation in the program.

Many of the students said they were already interested in technology prior to attending the program, but they realize they’re preparing for jobs and technology that may not currently exist.

“Everywhere you go, you’re going to see technology,” predicted Jeremiah Ransom, 12, of his future. “Every step of the way, you’re going to see technology.”

Van Dinter explained by 2020, employers expect a major shortage of qualified workers for STEM-related careers. He said it’s advantageous for companies, like Verizon, to invest in the future workforce.

“What we’re showing them is these jobs are really cool,” he said. “These are skills that once you learn (them), you are going to be well-prepared for the future and anything that comes your way.”

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