Underserved children learn from professionals
Event partners with local groups for STEM lessons
Adrienne Sanchez relayed feedback near the offshore platform model made of wooden blocks. Three young girls carefully dropped pennies onto a floating Lego boat they crafted under Sanchez’s supervision.
As soon as the 11th coin plopped aboard, the rainbow-colored structure capsized.
“Looks like it’s time for a redesign,” Sanchez said. “Remember, you want to displace the water by adjusting the weight of the boat.”
Sanchez, a project engineer for the oil and gas consulting firm New Tech Global Environmental, traded in her usual cohorts Saturday for students eager to learn the fundamentals of buoyancy.
More than 600 elementary, middle and high school students attended Comcast Techpak at the Houston Community College West Loop South campus. They spent the day getting to meet and learn from professionals in science, technology, engineering and math fields as they created mobile apps, used an open-source program to modify the video game Minecraft and tested their engineering skills by seeing how many pennies their Lego boats could hold up before they sank.
While Comcast has held a number of digital literacy events for children in the past, Saturday’s event was the first to feature a partnership with the Houston Hispanic Forum and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, said Michael Bybee, spokesman for Comcast.
The premise of Saturday’s event was to ensure students from underserved communities, many of whom are Hispanic, receive exposure to professionals working in STEM fields that they may not get in school or at home, said Sineria Ordoñez, interim executive director of the Houston Hispanic Forum.
By having them partake in hands-on activities, Ordoñez hopes these students will be inspired to one day fill in the diversity gap that exists in STEM-related industries. According to a 2013 study by the U.S. Census, Hispanics made up 7 percent of the STEM workforce in 2011, while blacks made up 6 percent.
“There is definitely a need for diversity in STEM,” Ordoñez said.
Sisters Emma, 6, and Elaine Pruneda, 4, design and build a Lego boat to see how many pennies it can hold during the Comcast Techpak event.
From left, Kai Jackson, 7, Praneel Bhagavatula, 10, and Chase McClure, 8, fly paper airplanes they designed as part of learning about careers in STEM.