The Issue: Low Academic Success in Underserved Students
At Selma Avenue Elementary, many students face barriers to academic success. Nearly 90% have been classified as socioeconomically disadvantaged and 52% as “English Language Learners”, according to a 2011–12 report from the California Department of Education. Furthermore, the majority of these students are Hispanic, a minority that is largely underrepresented in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—according to 9 Dots. Yet a 2011 report from the United States Economics and Statistics Administration reveals that the number of STEM jobs has grown three times as fast as that of other jobs over the past decade, and careers in these fields tend to pay more as well.
The Campaign: Hosting an After-School STEM Program
All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by 9 Dots to host projects such as 3D modeling and printing, robotics, and computer programming for Los-Angeles-Area students from underserved backgrounds. For every $250 raised, 9 Dots can purchase enough materials to sponsor 75 students in a science, technology, engineering, or math challenge. During the 3D modeling and printing project, groups will work with 3D CAD modeling software and watch as their final designs come to life in a 3D printer—the same tools and processes used by professional designers and engineers.
Lego robots, stop-motion-animation videos, circuits made with conductive play dough—these are not only the stuff of children's daydreams, but actual projects that 9 Dots' volunteers guide students through. Each day, when Selma Avenue Elementary’s final bell rings at 2:35 p.m., 3rd through 7th graders enrolled in the 9 Dots after-school program gather around tables emblazoned with logos of strong engineering colleges—Stanford, Berkeley, MIT—and set to work brightening their futures. They pair up with adults and college students to complete their homework, study math flash cards, and complete online adaptive-learning programs, before breaking for a nutritious snack and heading outside to play handball, soccer, or kickball. Then, excited and inspired, they get to work on that day’s STEM-related project.
Three Stanford University alumni with backgrounds in computer science, mechanical engineering, and environmental studies, as well as a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s Department of Education, founded 9 Dots to spread their love for the STEM fields. Their mission was to get students from low-income families excited about learning and ideally start them down a path toward a career in a STEM field. So far, their efforts have worked. In the program’s first school year, 78% of 9 Dots' students passed the standardized math test, compared to 60% the year prior.
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