Cummins Uses Summer Program to Connect Youth with Engineering
When you were in third, fourth or fifth grade, did you build remote controlled robots, operational gliders or write computer codes for video games? Thanks to a partnership between Cummins Inc. and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), nearly 80 elementary school students from the Minneapolis area gained these experiences this summer.
The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) is the largest summer engineering program geared toward African-American and other underrepresented elementary school youth in the U.S. The three-week program is wrapping up its 12th year, and with Cummins support the program recently completed its first summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. SEEK gives elementary aged students the opportunity to learn and experience science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through weekly competitive projects, and guidance from NSBE mentors and Cummins volunteers.
Each day volunteers from the Cummins Shoreview and Fridley locations spent their time at SEEK to provide the students and college mentors their professional real-world expertise. In fact, Executive Director of Power Systems Engineering Gary Johansen and Vice President of U.S. Diversity Initiatives Lori Thompson volunteered as judges for one of the weekly competitions.
“This was an awesome experience,” said Johansen. “The enthusiasm and knowledge of the students was so impressive and exciting to see. These young people are so far ahead of where I was at their age and if they are a glimpse into the future of engineering, the future of our industry looks bright. Hopefully, many of the students will continue the engineering path and look to Cummins to grow their talents and help position Cummins as the global power technology leader for the next 100 years.”
During the three-week program, the youth learned about key engineering historical figures and facts, different engineering disciplines and specialties, environmental sustainability, teamwork, problem solving and more. Each week the students were given a project, formed teams and competed against one another. The first week, the youth learned aeronautical engineering principles and made gliders, the second week they learned about robotics and made remote controlled robots, and the camp concluded with the teams developing computer apps and video games during the final week.
Thompson added, “As a judge it was interesting to watch the teams work together, decide on the answers, then select a spokesperson who presented the answers. Then, to see a team of five children huddled around a laptop enthusiastically explaining how they coded a computer game with pictures, music, movement and surprises was so exciting. There are few words to explain seeing the kids eagerly learning and participating with no ball, no cell phones and the only video game in sight was the one they created. It was magical!”
“When I first came to the camp I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but after being here (at SEEK) I think I want to be an environmental or computer engineer,” said Azariah Barrows, a fifth grade SEEK participant.
Many of the young scholars forged a similar interest in engineering, thanks to SEEK. Mohammad Sumbudu, a second grade SEEK participant stated, “My favorite part of the camp was making friends, building the gliders and I want to come back next year.”
Although this was the first year of SEEK in Minneapolis, the on-site NSBE/SEEK leadership have been responsible for launching and maintaining SEEK programs around the country. “I have been responsible for several SEEK programs, and what made this one especially different was the involvement of our sponsor,” said Osato Uzamere, SEEK Operations Site Coordinator. “The support we have received from Cummins has been unparalleled. At other sites, the sponsors have typically provided financial resources but not human resources. This relationship (with Cummins) has been wonderful.”
Cummins and NSBE have had a long standing relationship. “In 2016, I was asked to become the Executive Sponsor and Co-Chair of NSBE with Maurice Dantzler (Cummins Electronic Control Director), with the idea to determine how we deepen the relationship and make it more beneficial for both parties (Cummins and NSBE)”, Thompson added. “In July of 2017, we hosted the NSBE Leadership Team and recent NSBE hires, and discussed ways we could strengthen our partnership. One way was introducing elementary age students to engineering. Enter SEEK for third through fifth grade.”
The Cummins team walked away from the session and identified SEEK as one of the initiatives it wanted to support. The program fit well with the priorities of the Cummins Foundation, thus Cummins became an anchor sponsor.
The SEEK program is just another way Cummins is helping to build stronger communities and advancing its mission to make people’s lives better by powering a more prosperous world.