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American Indian Science and Engineering Society Boosts K-12 STEM Participation

Kelly Charley is one of the 2017 winners of the Energy Challenge for American Indian/Alaskan Native Youth.

Despite significant growth in STEM degrees and careers, Native Americans and American Indians remain seriously underrepresented in these fields. Only 19% of Native American students who attend college or university graduate with STEM degrees, earning less than .6% of all science and engineering bachelors degrees awarded and only .4% of all science and engineering Ph.D.s, according to a recent study. Hoping to increase the number of students pursuing STEM careers by capitalizing on early interest in science and engineering, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) offers support for K-12 students and classrooms across the country with classroom programming and competitions.

The third annual Energy Challenge for American Indian/Alaskan Native Youth is open to students in grades 7–12 and invites individuals and teams of up to four to identify an energy problem and develop a creative solution to it. Last year, the two students who won the grand prize used sustainable energy to improve energy concerns for their communities in Hawaii and on the Navajo reservation. The 2017–2018 competition is open and accepting applications until January 31.

The National American Indian Virtual Science and Engineering Fair, now in its fifth year, is open to students in grades 5–12 and invites individuals and teams of up to three to submit a science fair project online to be judged virtually. Last year's grand prize winner developed a thin-panel, cylinder-arrayed solar water heater. The 2017–2018 competition is open and accepting registrations through February 14.

Earlier this year, Naatsis'áán Robotics, a team made up of students from tiny Navajo Mountain High School in remote Utah advanced to the FIRST Robotics World Championship in their first year of competition. This fall, AISES is launching a new pilot program combining robotics and computer programming. Partnering with toy company Sphero, the program will engage students in hands-on activities using the spherical educational robot, SPRK+. The program is open to a limited number of schools and K–12 classrooms serving Native American students. You can find more information here.

Check out the lesson Images of Science to help students understand the diversity of the people involved in scientific enterprise.

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