Access to “Out of School” learning experiences can play a prominent role in introducing low-income students to STEM projects and leading them down a pathway to a STEM career. After-school programs encourage alternative ways of learning complex material related to math and science (National Research Council, Learning Science in Informal Environments, 2009).  The NRC study has shown that after school STEM program participants begin to think about themselves as science learners and develop identities as young people for whom science matters. These outcomes are critical to students’ development and career formation.

HOC’s low-income student population is compounded not only with the daunting career options facing all American youth who are not highly skilled in Science, Math, Engineering and Technology, but also with the odds of overcoming the achievement gap that exists between low income and the more affluent. According to Stanford University sociologist, Sean F. Reardon, the achievement gap among the poor and the rich is double the gap between black and white children.

Our modern workforce is increasingly STEM driven. And so, simply providing homework clubs is not enough. Our Kids’ STEM program has shown very encouraging results.  HOC’s low-income, at-risk youth not only need, but more importantly want to pursue STEM activities in order to succeed in today’s classroom.

Under the Kids’ STEM Program, trained STEM instructors conduct after-school robotics clubs for 60 at-risk, low-income youth living at three subsidized housing communities in Montgomery County.

Each week of the school year, students (grades 1-8) attend two-hour sessions twice a week after school. The students learn about all of the aspects of robotics -- construction, programming, physics, etc. After researching curriculum topics on introductory robotics, Kids’ STEM participants design and program a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 or a WeDo 2.0 robot to solve missions on a special obstacle course. Each participant utilizes a LEGO robotic kit, containing all the LEGO elements needed to construct a robot, a programmable brick, sensors, motors, and the software needed to program it.

During the 2016/17 school year we conducted afterschool Kids’ STEM clubs at three apartment communities for low-income families. In total, 60 elementary to middle school aged children regularly participated in the two-hour STEM sessions twice a week.

The kids reported the following:

  • 50% say robotics has improved their work in math
    • 62% want to take more math classes in school
  • 69% stated that robotics has improved their work in science
    • 57% want to take more science classes in school
  • 65% want to be scientists and 54% want to work with computers