Connect 313 Funds Early STEM Camps for Detroit Middle Schoolers
Just before the pandemic shut everything down in 2020, Cleary University’s Detroit Education Center launched a special STEM program for the area’s middle schoolers. The idea was to use LEGOs as literal building blocks to expose naturally curious fifth through eighth graders to the elements of basic robotics and computer coding.
“It’s important to Cleary University that it makes a difference in the communities it serves,” said Latasha Ellis, director at the DEC. “We started this program to provide STEM learning for students in underserved areas where there might not be exposure to this type of activity.”
Classes were online until 2021, and then schools across Michigan began returning to in-person teaching. But for Ellis, the program’s earlier switch to a virtual setting had revealed a gaping digital divide.
Understanding the value of STEM education in addressing the divide, Ellis contacted Connect 313 to request funding support. In response, Connect 313 provided a generous grant of $18,500, which Cleary was able to use for STEM camp scholarships, supplies, and the children’s lunchtime meals. Today, Critical Thinking with LEGO® is a popular program with two week-long camps in the summer and two six-week weekend programs throughout the winter. Since 2020, more than 100 children have participated.
Under the instruction of Cleary University professors, students use LEGO blocks to build robots or cars and then code them to move. Coding can include instructions to pickup a block, push a swing, cross a bridge, or even dance.
“Every child knows and loves LEGOs and that makes them a great way to introduce new concepts and ways of thinking,” Ellis said. “In this program, we’re exposing kids to coding, teamwork, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and a host of experiences that will help them be successful in just about every part of their lives.”
Both winter and summer camps are held at Cleary’s DEC location in the Durfee Innovation Society, next to Central High School where neighborhood children are given the first opportunity to enroll.
“We give kids in the Central High community the first chance to register so that if there is limited access to transportation, they can still participate,” Ellis explained.
And participation is what it’s all about for Ellis and the team at Cleary University. By providing Detroit middle school students with access to technology, Cleary, with the support of Connect 313, is fostering a digitally included community.
This summer, camps are June 26 – 30, and July 10 – 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Durfee Innovation Society, 2470 Collingwood St, Detroit, MI 48206. Lunch is provided. Call 800-686-1883 for more information or to register or use the QR codes below.