I believe that after school programs create a critical safety net for kids that don’t have one and help them acquire success skills that are more readily attainable by other children. Thus it has been especially heartwarming that the Broadcom Foundation has sought out after school programs as important partners to fulfill its stated goal of closing the STEM education gap for women and minorities and inspiring volunteerism by Broadcom employees where they live and work.
We know many kids love to compete; so the Broadcom Foundation set out to help after school kids learn the skills they will need to compete for STEM jobs in the communities where they live near Broadcom offices. In addition to donating computers and laptops, we are helping children discover their passion in science or engineering through a pilot program through which after school providers partner with local science fairs. The program is called the Broadcom MASTERS Jr. Varsity – because junior varsity is where they get their start to become all-stars at the varsity level.
One of Broadcom Foundation’s great success stories has been partnering with THINK (Teaching, Helping, Inspiring, and Nurturing Kids) Together, an after school program that supports young people in school districts throughout Orange County, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Jose and San Diego. THINK Together shares Broadcom Foundation’s view that after school space is terrific STEM learning space because kids have several hours in which they can concentrate on a project, get their hands into it, and learn how to be creative through the process of trial and error – all 21st century skills that kids need to work at companies like ours.
Completing a science or engineering project is no small feat for any middle-schooler – but preparing underserved kids to be “science fair ready” takes a meaningful effort by many. Children need to identify something that interests them and then learn the scientific method or engineering process in order to take a deep dive into the subject. The project can be as simple as which laundry soap will remove stains more effectively? Or how can we add an effective brake to a skateboard? The topics are endless at www.sciencebuddies.org, a website geared to find STEM projects for kids of any age, any socioeconomic background and any interest.
But getting a kid excited about a STEM project is not enough. Very few after school providers are familiar with STEM, or the project-based learning methodology that allows their kids to complete a science project. To address this, Broadcom Foundation has supported the Broadcom STEM Summer Science Institute and STEM Ecosystems training programs where after school providers, along with the teachers from schools where many after school programs are held, are trained in STEM and project-based learning. Broadcom has encouraged its engineers to visit schools and mentor in after school programs to provide critical know-how as well as inspire young people to see what their future can be if they stay focused on math and science at school.
For the past several years, the Orange Country Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) has teamed with THINK Together in Santa Ana to provide guidance to young students tackling their science and engineering projects in after school time. We tapped middle schools that were willing to partner with THINK Together to create continuity in support from the classroom STEM learning through the after school hours where students could concentrate on their projects with the help of retired scientists and Broadcom volunteers.
The Broadcom MASTERS Jr. Varsity has been a tremendous success in helping kids improve their science and engineering literacy and teaching them how to inquire, design, investigate, and present scientific and engineering concepts through hands-on experimentation. Our initial collaboration was with Tustin’s Utt Middle School resulted in twenty-two THINK Together kids presenting projects at OCSEF in 2013 and over ninety kids developing projects for this year’s science fair, where all students get to meet with official judges and are recognized with a certificate of achievement. The result of all this effort is that over two hundred students participate in the THINK Together After School Science Club programs. Two particularly gifted students, Ernesto and Adolfo from Santa Ana were tapped to participate in the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS International as “Host City Delegates” at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair – a life-changing experience. As Cesar Nava, a 6th grade student at Lathrop Intermediate School said, “It was a great experience being at the fair. I learned about science, and now I want to come back every year.”
The model of partnering between after school programs like THINK Together and science fairs has caught fire in other regions where our company has facilities. The Broadcom MASTERS Jr. Varsity program is just one way that Broadcom and the Broadcom Foundation are supporting after school programs. Whether it is supporting the development of a STEM badge for the Girls Scouts, holding “Squishy Circuits” workshops for kids from Girls, Inc., and mentoring programs in San Jose, Colorado, Andover, Austin, Singapore, Israel and the UK, to name a few, we know that with the right tools and volunteer support, after school time can be STEM learning time. I believe this, and I urge all who read this article to inquire how you can participate as a volunteer in your local after-school programs. Our kids are waiting for your support!