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About 300 Denver kids will delve into the world of engineering and be encouraged to pursue college by participating in a free, three week, hands-on summer science and engineering program taught by trained college students, many of whom are female or minorities majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids, SEEK Denver, is a new, collaborative effort between Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and his Office of Children’s Affairs; CH2M HILL, a global consulting, design, construction, and operations firm; Denver Public Schools (DPS); and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), along with other area businesses providing support and funding. SEEK, a national STEM program developed by NSBE in 2007, is running for the first time in Denver this summer. The Denver program will reach children in 3rd through 5th grades, taking place July 15 to August 2 at Maxwell Elementary. Children participating in the program will be offered free breakfast and lunch thanks to the Denver Office of Children’s Affairs and Revolution Foods.
On Friday, July 12, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg joined program organizers, sponsors, and interested community and business-persons to kickoff the start of SEEK Denver and to meet the 50 college students who will serve as mentors and teachers for SEEK Denver. The “mentors” had just completed a week of intensive training relating to the design-build toys the kids will create: the glider, the gravity cruiser, and the can crusher. Each Friday of the program the kids will make an oral presentation and test their toys before a panel of judges comprised of guest engineers, community leaders and business persons. The kids will also construct and test a mini water filtration unit as part of a CH2M HILL sponsored activity to show the children that engineering touches their lives every day.
Half of the SEEK Denver mentors are from Colorado universities. Fourteen of the 50 total mentors have had previous experience with the SEEK program, while the others were chosen for their solid academics and interest in being a role model. During the program, the mentors will have a chance to interact with representatives of area businesses and learn about internship and job opportunities.
Mayor Hancock applauded the talent and commitment of the college mentors and said, “SEEK Denver is growing tomorrow’s engineers by exposing children to STEM careers. By investing our time and energy in these kinds of programs, we are ensuring our future job market and the vibrancy of Denver’s economy.”
The program was brought to Denver through significant funding and staff support from CH2M HILL, whose headquarters are in the Denver metro region. Additional funds were also contributed by Orica USA, (provider of commercial explosives to mining and infrastructure), Agile 1 (provider of hiring /talent procurement technologies), the Community College of Denver, HKA Enterprises (staffing solutions provider), Johns Manville (manufacturer of building, insulation and specialty products), First Tech Federal Credit Union, and Xcel Energy.
“CH2M HILL has a strong commitment to diversity among our employees,” said Mike McKelvy, President and Division Chief Executive at CH2M HILL, “and SEEK Denver is one way to grow a pipeline of diverse talent.” McKelvy noted that women, Hispanics and African-Americans make up the bulk of the future workforce, yet are often underrepresented in STEM fields. “Too many better paying jobs are vacant because there are not enough qualified workers to fill them” he said. “We have joined forces with the Mayor and others to bring SEEK to Denver’s children of color because STEM builds the future earning power of at-risk students, and it provides businesses with qualified workers.” CH2M HILL has committed to be a key sponsor and organizer of SEEK Denver over three summers (2013-2015). They are cultivating other partners to join in these efforts to help continue the Denver program in future years.
NSBE, a non-profit association with more than 35,000 student and professional members, is one of the largest student-governed organizations in the country. Strauder Patton, past National Professionals Chairman of NSBE (2012), and engineer at CH2M HILL explained that the mission of NSBE is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community. “NSBE has sought to be inclusive of Denver’s demographics by reaching out to encourage SEEK Denver to enroll children from diverse backgrounds,” said Patton. “We are pleased this awesome program will reach all these children, and we look forward to our first summer of SEEK Denver.”
Denver Public Schools, through the DPS Office of Community Engagement, provided assistance in recruiting children to enroll in the free program. Additionally, DPS is providing a shuttle bus from a school in a neighboring area to Maxwell Elementary so that families will have easier access to the program. DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg explained, “As we work to close the achievement gap, it is critical that talented and caring adults and businesses partner with us in our work to support and inspire our students. Our partnership with SEEK Denver provides tremendous value because it keeps children learning over the summer, introduces them to new fields of learning and inspires them to explore their dreams and goals for the future. This is about giving our students the tools for future success.”