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Nonprofit recreates STEM convention for students in Kansas City

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Posted at 3:02 AM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 08:23:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This week, hundreds of middle school and high school students from across the country are in Anaheim, California, for the National Society of Black Engineers convention.

A group of students from the Kansas City area couldn’t make the trip because of funding and the COVID-19 pandemic, so leaders at the nonprofit aSTEAM Village recreated the NSBE convention here in Kansas City.

The organization rented a ballroom at the Westin Hotel downtown, gave students lanyards to wear and built a program with presentations, activities, workshops and more spread out over most of the week.

“We’re simulating just like we’re there,” Melanie Young, a coach for a local team, explained.

A computer science teacher at the University Academy signed his students up for the convention less than one week ago. He said it’s critical students get out of the classroom.

“Learning is not something we just do in the classroom,” Jordan Hadjian said. “We have to be able to learn outside the classroom. That’s usually where kids find out what they’re going to do with their lives.”

Thursday, students raced remote control cars they built ahead of the convention. Coaches uploaded their lap times to the national convention, bridging the gap between the two groups.

“I just wanted to learn more, get some new experiences,” Kaden Hall-DeJesus said about why he joined aSTEAM Village’s after school program.

The freshman at Sumner Academy said his favorite part of racing the remote controlled cars is when something goes wrong.

“Because then that gives you a new challenge to work on,” Hall-DeJesus said. “It also makes you think 'how do I keep this from happening the next time.'”

The next time NSBE meets, it will be in Kansas City. KC is set to host the national convention in 2023, making this year’s event good preparation.