Empowering the Future: Stepping Up STEM in Pahokee

"Robotics has been nothing short of extraordinary and impactful in shaping my life choices and aspirations for pursuing a career in the STEM world. Being a part of an exceptional team throughout the years has brought me valuable skills and insight to the field of technology, collaboration, leadership, and ability to work well under pressure. Robotics has opened vast doors and spawned numerous opportunities for me to grow intellectually and professionally. With the support of scholarship donors and well-known organizations, I have realized the potential I can achieve, even with limited resources, the ability to persevere and remain dedicated has been planted in the forefront of my everyday endeavors. I am forever grateful for my experiences and contributions in Robotics."

Thanks to our funders for this program

 The “Stepping up STEM in Pahokee” program funded in partnership with Ventus Charitable Foundation as part of the State of Florida’s School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program through the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations is transforming the educational landscape for students in grades 6 through 11 by offering a robust series of Computer Programming and Robotics courses. Focused on skill enhancement and creating opportunities, particularly for historically underrepresented students, this initiative equips young minds with the tools they need for success in college and future STEM-related careers.

A Dynamic Evolution

Since its inception, the Stepping Up STEM program has undergone significant evolution. Initially centered on Robotics, emphasizing robot mechanics and programming, the program has expanded to create a rigorous course path for students and embraces a comprehensive STEM approach by integrating Computer Science and programming into the robotics curriculum. The 2023-2024 school year marked a significant milestone with 99 additional students participating in the program which served 260 students from grades 6 to 12 participating, showcasing the program’s growing impact. Introducing an International Baccalaureate (IB) Computer Science course for 11th graders marked another significant expansion to retain IB students interested in pursuing robotics, computer programming, and computer science pathways within the IB program.

Comprehensive Curriculum

Starting from the basics, the program introduces 6th graders to coding using the Carnegie Mellon Robotics curriculum and LEGO EV3 robots. As students progress through the program and course pathway, they start text-based programming in their second and third years, mastering advanced programming skills to enhance robot functionality. In 7th grade, students are introduced to JavaScript, and they begin programming in Python in 8th grade. This structured progression ensures a seamless transition from middle to high school within the Computer Science Principles Pathway.

In high school, students utilize Java for programming and construct robots using REV Robotics kits. They engage in mini-competitions based on the annual FIRST Robotics competition theme, providing practical, hands-on engineering and programming experience. Additionally, students leverage the CodeHS online platform to gain proficiency in Java, while also learning web development through HTML and CSS as they work to obtain industry certifications. 

Achievements and Impact

The program’s impact is evident in the impressive achievements of its students. This year, 88% of participants passed certification assessments in either HTML or Python, a significant improvement from previous years. 

Beyond STEM Education

The influence of the Stepping Up STEM program extends beyond academics. The program has reshaped aspirations in a region where many children previously saw football as the way to elevate themselves and their families out of poverty. Seven years ago, the high school graduation rate was a mere 33%. Today, it stands at an impressive 100%, with students now envisioning college and careers that can uplift their families for generations.

One of the most remarkable outcomes is the valedictorian of this year’s Pahokee Middle High School graduating class, a student nurtured by the Stepping up STEM program. Additionally, all 12 of the program’s participating seniors in the 2023-2024 school year have been accepted into state universities or colleges, collectively earning thousands of dollars in scholarships. This success is a testament to their engagement in the program’s rigorous course pathway and after-school offerings.

A Brighter Future

The Stepping up STEM in Pahokee program is more than an educational initiative; it’s a beacon of hope and a catalyst for change. Providing students with essential skills  and opportunities is shaping a future where young minds can break free from the constraints of poverty and achieve greatness in STEM. As the program continues to grow and evolve, it promises to inspire and empower many more students, paving the way for future generations.

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