Chicago Pre-College Science & Engineering Program pivots to virtual learning after experiencing explosive growth over 10 years

Chicago Pre-College Science & Engineering Program pivots to virtual learning after  experiencing explosive growth over 10 years

Program moves seamlessly to virtual learning as first class of graduating seniors poised for careers in mathematics, engineering, computer science and science

(CHICAGO) – After 11 years of operation Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program (ChiS&E) has grown from a fledgling program, serving a limited number of grades, to include its first class of graduating seniors.  Since launching in 2009, nearly 4,000 students in 270 schools have gone through ChiS&E programs in Chicago area public and charter schools. Now participating seniors are well-positioned for success in the science and engineering fields during their secondary education.  And through its core partnerships, the program has been able to seamlessly transition to a virtual learning model that includes free materials for all its K-12 students.

Over its 10 year history, ChiS&E has cultivated an impressive list of program partners that have been instrumental in pivoting the program’s learning model during the COVID-19 pandemic, inclusive of providing free materials. Contributing to the effort have been the University of Illinois Urbana, University of Chicago School of Molecular Engineering, Riverbend Mathematics Center (South Bend), the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State University, and Chicago Public Schools.  Institutional partners include Boeing Corporation, Motorola Solutions, Albert Pick Jr. Fund, and a host of individual donors.

ChiS&E’s goal is to motivate, and academically prepare historically underrepresented minority students, specifically African American and Latino, for science, technology engineering, and mathematics-related careers.  Founded by Kenneth Hill, ChiS&E launched in Chicago with support from Chase and the National Science Foundation, specifically to meet an unfulfilled need in Chicago area schools for enhanced STEM education.   The free program was modeled on the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program ( DAPCEP), Hill founded in 1976. It continues to this day as one of the preeminent public school science and engineering programs in the country with a host of alumni holding prominent positions in science, math, and engineering.  Upon returning to Chicago for retirement, Hill saw the need for a similar curriculum here. Beginning in elementary school, the program has grown over the last 11 years to now include graduating seniors.

“At its core, ChiS&E is about letting Black and brown students know it’s OK to like math and science, says Hill, a message he says they do not always receive from their peers.  We’ve been able to expand the number of schools our students attend and those students originally joining our K – 8 programs are now high school participants.  And with our data collection and analysis we can show the impact we are having both on our participants, and on schools across the city.”

“This year, the Foundation’s grants will support programs that help millions of students, teachers, first responders, and community members around the globe,” said Karem Perez, executive director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. “We are thrilled to partner with organizations like Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program that are actively making a positive difference in their communities.”

Parent involvement, documented via research as a success factor for students, is a prerequisite for participation in ChiS&E.   Parents participate alongside their students to assist them in developing critical thinking and analytical skills and develop problem-solving skills.

ChiS&E’s goals also include raising community awareness about the importance of student success in science and mathematics; illuminating pathways to careers in STEM; inspiring passion for science and math through hands-on activity; making engineering come alive; equipping parents to provide supportive, stimulating learning experiences for their children; and highlighting African American and Latino professional role models within the field.   Among the ‘hidden figures’ the program has exposed students to are Dr. Marian Croak, VP of Engineering at Google, who spearheaded the changeover to VoIP during her time at Bell Labs; Dr. Ayanna Howard, educator and an international expert in robotics previously with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and  Tyrone Porter, Myron L. Begeman Fellowship in Engineering, the University of Texas, whose research focuses on Biomedical Engineering.

The curriculum has a focus on hands-on learning and student testimonials.  Additionally, beginning in elementary school there is a heavy concentration on Algebra.  Participation in the program is free and students and parents may visit to learn more or to donate to the program.

About ChiS&E

The ChiS&E provides highly-engaging, age appropriate hands-on science and engineering activities and promotes careers in science and engineering.  The program is a partnership between Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Colleges of Education and Engineering and Department of Mathematics. Other partners include the LBJ STEM and Research Center at Texas State University, Riverbend Mathematics and Center (South Bend Indiana),  and the University of Chicago School of Molecular Engineering.  The next  parent orientation for students in grades kindergarten,  1 – 4, 5th – 9th  and 10th -12th  grades will be in April 2021  . The program is free to participants with the only requirement being that a parent must participate with their students. Students must share their most recent report card in order to participate.  The mission of the Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program (ChiS&E) is to increase the number of historically underrepresented African American and Latino students who are motivated and academically prepared to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  ChiS&E is a 501©3 tax exempt organization.


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