Alabama STEM Education (ASE) is a 501(c) 3 organization whose mission is to empower the minds of underrepresented, undeserved youth in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Since its inception in 2014, ASE has been providing innovative, engaging, and interactive out of school time activities for more than 1400 youth in Jefferson County. ASE recognizes there is a persistent "opportunity gap" where STEM learning is more often available to youth attending high-performing schools and living in affluent and middle-class communities, while students who attend under-resourced schools, in poor communities, often lack exposure to math and science-rich environments and opportunities for STEM learning. ASE is working to close that gap for children in the Bessemer, Birmingham, and communities of Jefferson County. In 2015 Alabama STEM Education contracted with the UAB Engineering department to facilitate the summer enrichment program at the Bessemer City Middle School. Since that program collaboration with UAB, Auburn University, Lawson State Community College, Miles College, and the University of Montevallo have all been engaged with our students to give them the best of STEM training. Today ASE runs 3 programs year-round: STEM Summer Camp, “Raise the Bar”, and T.A.P.E. (Tutoring And Practical Exposure). We reach 300 to 500 students a year through these programs.
ASE’s spirit of partnership and networking fosters a community of cooperation among, parents, students, businesses, and other organizations to provide each program participant with a supportive learning environment. The core curriculum includes robotics, computer programming, and basic engineering disciplines. Students learn basic programming techniques on single board platforms and basic robotics tasks to process various sensors for making decisions and steering objects via electronic commands.. Our students receive ongoing personal development and academic support from our dedicated community volunteers who share their time and talents through one on one and small group tutoring and mentoring. Our students learning environment is further strengthened through numerous field trips, career exploration, speaker forums, and workshops. Because the students in our program come from predominantly non-Caucasian low-income households, access is limited to field trips and extracurricular activities. ASE feels it’s important to expose our students to activities outside their comfort zone. In addition to the core STEM curriculum that is offered during the school year, we provide a low-cost STEM Summer Camp. We have been able to provide our Summer Camp to over 500 low-income families for $350 per month, aggressive fundraising and tremendous board support have made this possible. It is our destiny to continue building opportunities for the children in our community and work to remove some of the barriers that these children face in preparing for success in STEM as the demand for STEM-related careers continues to grow.