BY TRONE DOWD
High schools from around the borough had the unique opportunity last Friday at Milton G. Bassin Performance Center at York College; to participate in a chance to learn the particulars of science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields as part of the Ten 80 program. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, the country-wide initiative is getting young men and women involved in the sciences and tech at early age and preparing them for the countless fields that use the fundamentals of STEM.
Terri Stripling, president of Ten 80, described the event as a pep rally for STEM, getting students, regardless of prior interest in the fields, excited and involved in programming. At the event, students are put into groups of five based on subtopics in the STEM field. Students are tasked to come up with an invention of their own before giving a 30 second elevator pitch for their invention. They then continue working on and honing the idea before submitting it again taking the necessary steps they’ll need to make the pitch a reality. The team with the winning pitch receives $500 per team member.
As a result of the event, each of the high schools are able to bring back what they learned to their school in the form of an engineering course and computer science clubs. These programs would be funded by the U.S. Army, hopefully exposing children who would otherwise have to search out ways to learn STEM causes. In 2015 alone, the program has visited 12 cities with this goal in mind.
At Friday’s program, 18 schools, including the Academy of Finance and Enterprise High School, the Queens High School for the Science at York College, Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences High School and Mathematics, Science Research and Technology High School from Southeast Queens were in attendance. More than 840 students participated.
“Today is mainly about STEM and how it applies to innovation and invention,” said Stripling. “Almost every one of these students wants to be involved in what they would think of as an innovative team, an innovative culture. For them to be a valuable teammate in that innovative team, they would have to understand what it means. Today is about these kids learning to work as a team, understanding what leadership means, understanding intellectual property and find the piece that interests them.”
Stripling said that the Ten 80 event is usually just the beginning of a long term relationship between the participating school and the STEM advocacy program.
“We have 15 schools here today,” Stripling said. “If 10 of them decide to start some sort of STEM course in their school, we will just maintain that relationship with them. Our people will train the teachers, the teachers interested in learning more about STEM benefit from this and of course the students that may have only been thinking about theatre or art club will realize that those have a place in STEM learning.”
The teachers that attended the event from each school are also able to get involved and learn a few things from Ten 80 educators. Stripling said that the following week, Ten 80 would hold a webinar to introduce opportunities for them, and help craft STEM programs in a way that is comfortable for teachers and beneficial and effective for the students. these can be applied by either January or the following school year.
The event brought in a ton of big names in the STEM field to help the kids, including professional drag racer Antron Brown, the first African American to win an NRHA Top Fuel World Championship, taking home the prize in 2012 and 2015 and Lt Colonel Richard B. Gussenhoven, a professor of military science at CUNY.
“Well STEM, just from all the ways we use it in our current development in racing and in life period, it’s becoming the fundamental building blocks in anything that we do now,” Brown said. “Anything that we do in today’s world, this is where it’s created from.”
Brown spoke about the impacts STEM development has had on the world of racing. He mentioned that it has increased the rate at which breakthroughs are made as well as the usefulness of testing use of the previously mentioned building blocks.
“We have come farther in racing in the last five years then racing has in 30 years prior through STEM,” Brown said. “We break barriers every year where as before it would take them anywhere from five to eight years through trial and error.”
Gussenhoven spoke on the impact STEM has had on the U.S. military and how it has helped them aid the needy overseas.
“Our most recent deployment of troops that most people don’t recognize was to West Africa to support the control of the ebola outbreak,” Gussenhoven said. “Why did they call the U.S. Army? Because we were able to build a small city in the middle of the desert and be able to supply full medical facilities in order for the international organizations to come in and provide the medical personnel to combat the virus. That’s the kind of capability we have. The problems of the world can be solved with technology.”
Erzulie Mars, Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Development at York, helped get the program off the ground. She said the program was a part of York’s efforts to build bright futures for students borough wide.
“This whole event is a part of the commitment of York’s mission statement to spark minds and enrich lives even outside of the college realm,” Mars said. “It doesn’t start with the admissions process. It doesn’t start with the new students orientation. It’s very important to have a relationship with the high schools. This is our market. For students this is very important. STEM is the future and we know this. Hopefully an event like this will spark interests.”
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly.