Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area is excited to launch a complementary STEM program for the upcoming school year. The BGC Double A STEM Academy is aimed to help address and challenge the opportunity gap in applied sciences for underrepresented youth in Austin.
According to Erica Egan, STEM Director, the program was created to further support BGCAA’s STEM programming, like the Club Tech program that launched to address the digital inequalities in the city. And while the Club Tech program had a number of successes over the past five years, Egan believed it was necessary for Club members to experience a diverse group of skill sets that went beyond the digital scope.
According to Devon Spencer, BGCAA Grants Manager, the BGC Double A STEM Academy is “something different, [something] we’ve never done before.” The program was designed to “build proficiencies in the engineering design process, increase aptitudes in computer science literacy and teach 21st century skill sets to economically-disadvantaged youth, ages 6-18.” The program is meant to encourage Club members to practice STEM skills like collecting and analyzing data, conducting investigations, computational thinking, and using evidence to create arguments.
During the program, Club members will engage in STEM education opportunities that supplement school day instruction that aligns and incorporates Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Technology Applications. Such applications include using creative knowledge, communicated using digital tools, and applying critical thinking skills to solve problems. And to further support these applications, each quarter will focus on a different theme. For example, the year will begin with Engineering and Design, followed by STEAM, Career and Entrepreneurship, and Earth and Nature.
The pilot program launched this summer and since then, Club members have already been hard at work. Egan said members have “designed and created model rockets to carry supplies to the surface of the moon, built ethical and safe traps for the safe removal of invasive species, and utilized design software to create their very own 3D printed bubble wands. It’s been an exciting summer.
The program will be facilitated at 12 of BGCAA’s most high-need Clubs and outreach programs, will be led by five “traveling” STEM Academy Educators, and will serve 15 students in each age group who were chosen to participate based on their interest in STEM and parent and school input. The BGC Double A STEM Academy will roll into effect when the school year begins this August.