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Partner Perspectives: Johns Hopkins STEM Mentors Fuel “Pipeline” to Success



By Dwight Carr
Program Manager for STEM Outreach
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Nearly 400 students from 18 Maryland schools in six counties competed yesterday for a slot in the national Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) initiative. I’m tremendously excited to watch our third through twelfth graders show off how much they know in STEM fields! And I’m very proud of Johns Hopkins APL’s long-time sponsorship of the Maryland MESA program, which fosters STEM-powered graduates in Maryland, and is now in its 39th year.

To give you just a taste of what was on tap at this state-level competition, elementary-age competitors faced off in the Cyber Security Awareness Game using Scratch—a software language developed by MIT for use as an introductory teaching tool for computer programming.

Middle schoolers designed and constructed functional hovercrafts—able to travel on land and water—and then race them across a track.

And high school competitors entered into the world of cyber security, using the Python programming language to program a virtual robot to search for and disable viruses that have infected a series of computer networks.

This competition is a lot of fun for the students and their APL mentors, who work in the real world as computer scientists, applied mathematicians, electrical engineers, physicists, and more.

But it’s also much more than that. The MESA program opens doors for many students by exposing them to a range of applied sciences and inspiring them to consider careers in STEM fields.

In fact, I view this program as a very promising pipeline that can bring young students from the point of absolutely no exposure to applied math, engineering, and so forth, all the way up into our ASPIRE program—an internship for juniors and seniors who work with APL staff in our labs and offices.

To make this continuum a reality, we’ve launched a pilot tutoring program. Working with the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore, and other partners, we’re reaching out to students who know nothing about STEM and pairing them with our employee tutors. This program holds great promise—as we’re seeing real academic gains in math proficiency within the very first year.

Maryland’s schools are absolutely on the right path as they work to expand and integrate STEM work inside and outside the classroom.

We are committed to supporting this work, and helping generations of students graduate with the skills they need for both college and careers.