RICHMOND, Va. – On November 16, 2016, the Richmond Police Department (RPD) in collaboration with M-Lifestyle organized a STEM activity for student at the Richmond Alternative School. The school is designed to help inner city youth who may have been in trouble at school or with the law. Participants during this outreach included local police officers, students between 6th and 11th grade and a few staff members of the school. The focus for this event was to present robotics, like self-propelled/driving robots, based on the design of the kids. “This approach is solid because communicating the making of these robots in its fundamental form is basic street knowledge that can easily be mapped back to the STEM theories which kids would ordinary not be interested in,” said Ebenezer Olatuyi, Chief Technologist for M-Lifestyle.
RPD is compelled to help inner city youth who are at risk. Officer Farrhard A. El-Amin, who feels blessed to be one of the facilitators of the LIFE program, expressed a strong enthusiasm and passion for the success of the kids. LIFE stands for Law Enforcement Intervention focusing on Education. “My command staff has trusted me to bring in cutting edge and relevant teachers to reach the kids in a new way. We are looking forward to engage the youth through education and exposure to STEM and other fields of education.” The movement of the robot fascinated the youth in attendance and they were actively engaged during presentation, said Peter Olatuyi, Founder of M-Lifestyle, who demonstrated the exercise to the kids.
The STEM outreach initiative began as part of the initiatives M-Lifestyle is implementing to ensure that kids, who ordinarily would not have exposure to STEM activities, can strengthen the pipeline of STEM professionals, most especially in the African- American Community. The ability to understand and actually design robots can forge in these young ones the “I can” attitude that will propel them to continue with interest. The hope is that as they continue in their endeavor to make their robots faster, smarter, stronger, more competitive, then they get to learn more STEM concepts that becomes “second nature” to them.
The U.S. Department of Education data analyzed by the Center for Public Integrity show that Virginia schools in a single year referred students to law enforcement agencies at a rate nearly three times the national rate. The RPD uses the program as an alternative to reduce arrests. “We want to help the kids succeed in school and life in general” said officer El-Amin. The RPD is looking to further the program by following up with each student after graduation. “We want to help them go to college and/or pursue a career of their choice with real experience and skills already in place” said officer El-Amin.
M-Lifestyle which is based in Richmond VA, takes pride in inspiring young people of color by promoting success stories of people like them, as well as contributing to those success story. “With our STEM initiative, I believe we can reach out to many young people of color and cause a major impact in their lives as a result of the exposure we are bringing to them. I believe with the right kind of collaboration and support, we will make a big impact,” said Peter Olatuyi. We intend to go big as we search for more resources and structure. We are in dire need of STEM volunteers and mentors. We hope this will inspire a grassroots STEM interest so that parents who don’t have STEM background can have solid relatable content that they can use to educate small group of STEM club members. We need to invest in more activity modules and develop a sustainable operating system for our outreach effort. It’s always important to remember the goal-seek and provide non-traditional ways that can engage kids in STEM activities to keep them desiring more and thus fueling their interest to be STEM professionals,” said Ebenezer.
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