STEM Stepping Stones
The engineering lab at Baltimore’s Patterson High School is a rare kind of classroom: A place where students voluntarily spend time even when there’s no class.
“Sometimes I have to kick students out of here at 6 p.m.,” says Sharon Ball, who teaches engineering and technology courses in the lab but also keeps it open for students to come by in their free time, at lunch and after school. Those who gravitate here, she says, want more time with science projects—writing code, building robots, dismantling laptops, and more.
On a Wednesday morning this month, a group of 16 juniors and seniors came to Ball’s lab for a special purpose—the STEM-LEADS workshop series, run by Johns Hopkins University undergraduate students.
The program has dual motives. The first is to expose Patterson students to hands-on work in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, through interactive experiments in neuroscience, physics, and other scientific disciplines. But in pointing to that potential career path, the program also addresses the part that comes first: higher education. The Hopkins volunteers offer college prep support, helping their younger peers navigate the challenges of test-taking and applications.
STEM-LEADS grew out of the Latino re-health honor society at Johns Hopkins, Lambda Epsilon Mu. The group’s president, neuroscience major Julia Duvall, developed the idea last year with fellow LEM members Diego Luna and Avery Gulino, winning support from the Johns Hopkins Idea Lab‘s Diversity Innovation Grant program, the Student Government Association, and the Whiting School of Engineering. The program debuted at Patterson in the spring, with Ball serving as faculty adviser.
At a recent session—before Patterson students paired off to design their own circuit boards—the seniors in the group were assigned individual mentors from Hopkins for help with college application essays.
“Nov. 1 is your first college deadline,” Duvall reminded them, then went on to brief the high-schoolers on plans for a field trip JHU’s Homewood campus. “The main point is that you guys get a feel for what college life is like.”