Cal State Fullerton Teaches Kids STEM and Entrepreneurship

STEM Entrepreneurship Awards CeremonyOne of the big keys to success for entrepreneurs is putting together strong teams and that is what the Center for Entrepreneurship, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and the College of Education did with a recently concluded STEM grant.

Together, these three Cal State Fullerton Colleges won a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to teach entrepreneurship and STEM to local middle school students. For the last three years, these Colleges collaborated on the creation and implementation of an innovative after school curriculum for disadvantaged middle school students. The mission was to provide these students with lessons in STEM and entrepreneurship so that they will have the skills that will help them tackle the challenges of our interconnected and increasingly technical world.

Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson summed up his team’s mission as a way to “increase awareness and encourage interest in entrepreneurship and STEM as a choice of education but potentially also as a career for these students. Our goal was to make STEM cool by gamifying the experience with Entrepreneurship”.

“The fact that we three Colleges are collaborating is very significant,” states Director Jackson. Bringing together people from different disciplines is the best way to achieve success. Entrepreneurial members of the CSUF team helped teach the kids lessons in how to develop a business concept, test its feasibility, and how to bring their innovations to market. The engineering team members taught the students lessons on engineering and how to code. And members from the College of Education synthesized these lessons into a framework that was accessible for these young students.

The CSUF team was represented by Program Leader Dr. Jidong Huang and Dr. Pradeep Nair from the College of Engineering and Computer Science along with Dr. Amy Cox-Petersen and Professor Kim Case from the College of Education. Professor Jackson represented Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. Additionally, numerous CSUF student mentors coached the middle school students in the after school classroom.

The $1 million grant is the second largest grant won in Mihaylo College’s history and was used to fund the mentors, faculty, and materials needed to maintain the after school program.

After three years of running this program the CSUF faculty and student mentors, the middle school students, and middle school teachers who participated in this program celebrated their accomplishments at their annual showcase. Participating middle school students presented their solutions and inventions using a poster-style format to showcase what they have learned to the hundreds of people in attendance, including Mihaylo College Interim Dean Morteza Rahmatian and College of Engineering and Computer Science Interim Dean Susamma “Susan” Barua.

“The parents are just super enthusiastic. Here’s a chance for their kids to get introduced to entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, and math and take a possible interest in getting more education for their career,” said Director Jackson.

Working with these students was a joy for Director Jackson and the CSUF team and they are confident that once the studies about their program’s efficacy have concluded later this summer they will find that thanks to their STEM Inc. program participating students will be shown to have a greater appreciation and fluency with entrepreneurial and STEM concepts. This is a big thing because these skills are absolutely necessary for their success.

Building on these early successes, the goal is for the participating middle schools to continue to run the program and help enrich the lives of students for many years to come.

This article was written by Traci Muldoon


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