A new pilot program for kids, building electric Wheelie Cars at the manufacturing facilities of Focus: HOPE, has Detroit's education leaders applauding.
DEARBORN, Mich., April 27, 2010 — In spite of a litany of issues associated with K-12 education in Michigan, which was graded "D" recently by Education Week magazine, three Michigan-based non-profit organizations are collaborating on elements of a remedy — a pilot program that will challenge middle school students and encourage interest in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
With funding provided by the SME Education Foundation, a team of eighth graders from Robeson Academy on Detroit's West side are learning how to build Electric Wheelie Cars at Focus: HOPE cool enough to compete with one another to win the Wheelie Car Competition scheduled for Friday, June 11 at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). The Shop Rat Foundation, a Jackson, Michigan based nonprofit educational institution, has loaned two of their Wheelie Car kits for this seven-week Wheelie Car Build Program.
Focus: HOPE recently "adopted" the Detroit K-8 school, offered access to its engineering / manufacturing training facility, and is providing assistance from five of its engineering students to mentor the middle school students in the Wheelie Car program which began on April 9.
"Hope for tomorrow starts with hands-on projects today. That's how I think we feel about the program," said Chris Salow, founder and executive director, Shop Rat Foundation. "The Shop Rat Wheelie Car is built in six states. We want to encourage everyone to become involved and donate to their local school's efforts. We realize the need to intellectually challenge kids at a young age."
In his meeting with SME Foundation Director Bart Aslin, Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools (DPS), encouraged and thanked the organizations for their support of Detroit public schools. Each of them is highly committed to finding ways to reach out and inspire young people about how innovative STEM education will impact career opportunities.
"We are cultivating a message about the importance of manufacturing in a global economy," said Julian E. Pate, III, Focus: HOPE director of education. "This pilot program is our way of reaching out into the community and giving young people the opportunity to use their hands and minds to learn about an exciting industry: manufacturing. They will see the benefit of education opportunities by working with our engineering students who may serve as role models for these middle school students. It carries a strong message in this city — working together for the common good."
Too often, students head to college without the critical thinking skills, patience and tenacity needed for entry-level courses, according to Carl Taylor, a sociology professor at Michigan State University who described what students needed in a recent edition of the Detroit Free Press, and those are the attributes the pilot program hopes to achieve.
Robeson Academy's 12 eighth grade students (girls and boys) split into two teams, were selected based on student/parent interest by their science teacher, Derek Sale. The new program requires two hours a week for seven weeks to build and one to two weeks to learn how to drive the vehicle. Students will be evaluated before and after the program to measure the impact of the learning experience and their increased knowledge.
The Electric Wheelie Car features alternative energy, zero turn steering, electric motors, and dynamic braking and is small enough to fit through a standard doorway. Students working from the provided kits will have access to full blueprints, complete frame package, complete electrical system, complete wheel/axle/tire assembly, instruction manual, educational lessons and other components.
The two Wheelie Car Kits on loan to Focus: HOPE are designed to match academic learning levels for middle, high school and college programs with each having a value of $4,000 to $5,000. This kit was selected because it can be broken down to individual components and be used over and over for a minimum of five years. Students will take part in a Q&A session to explain their design and understanding of the various systems.
Said Bart Aslin, director, SME Education Foundation, "This program ties into our national youth program initiative — the Gateway Academy, which offers the fundamentals of STEM education and where we have reached 4,800 in 28 states. It is all about securing the future of manufacturing in this country, reaching young people and changing their attitudes about learning and what can be achieved."
About Focus: HOPE:
Focus: HOPE is a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization in Detroit founded in 1968 after the Detroit riots. Throughout the years, Focus: HOPE developed numerous programs in its efforts to overcome racism, poverty and injustice, including career training programs. Through Focus: HOPE, thousands of individuals — especially women and minorities — have become financially independent.Visit www.focushope.edu.
About the Shop Rat Foundation:
The Shop Rat Foundation is a non profit organization dedicated to offering hands-on skilled trade education to young people to create the next generation of proud skilled workers and citizens (Shop Rats). The organization has created an after-school education program, called the Shop Rat Education Program held at various manufacturing facilities for middle school students. They have also initiated capstone projects and charitable events, and are working toward offering nationwide classes, competitions and scholarships. Visit www.shoprat.org.
About the SME Education Foundation:
The SME Education Foundation is committed to inspiring, supporting and preparing the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technologists in the advancement of manufacturing education. Created by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in 1979, the SME Education Foundation has provided more than $29 million since 1980 in grants, scholarships and awards through its partnerships with corporations, organizations, foundations, and individual donors. Visit www.smeef.org, www.CareerMe.org, and award-winning website for young people — www.manufacturingiscool.com.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact SME Public Relations at 313.425.3000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: 313.425.3403.