William Oliver, who founded STEAMsport in Atlanta, works with young people to introduce them to the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. ? munity Center at the Villages at Castleberry Hills, sits squarely in the middle of the Atlanta University Center, which includes Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College and Morehouse College. Oliver knew that many AUC students needed to do community service to graduate, especially recipients of service-based scholarships from the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation that must commit to 10 hours of community service every week. Both Spelman and Morehouse participate in the Bonner program. ?We got about 16 volunteers from the AUC schools, and at that point, I said let me open it up to other schools that have science and technology programs,? he says. ?Now we have students from Georgia Tech, Emory University, ITT Technical Institute and Atlanta Metropolitan State College.? The college students are not only instructors, but also mentors for the young people in the program, Oliver notes. Volunteers from Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta, all historically black colleges and universities, make particularly good role models. ?The kids see individuals that look like them and walk like them and dress like them and really mirror them, and who are on a path to do very well. They might have a dual degree in physics and engineering, they?ve done their internship with GE or AT&T, they?re set to make $70,000 to $80,000,? Oliver says. ?When you talk about science and technology, our kids tend to see the guy with the glasses and the pencils in his pocket, the typical geek. We really work hard to break down those sterotypes and say look, you don?t have to be that traditional geek. You can be a cool guy who just loves science and technology.? Oliver has made contact with the Georgia state AmeriCorps program and AmeriCorps members will supplement direct volunteers. One of the first students that Oliver worked with as a community developer is now his second in command. ?He has an engineering/ physics dual degree from Morehouse, so he knows a little more than I do in some areas,? Oliver says with a chuckle. He has done internships with Norfolk Southern and GE but is commited to the work of STEAMsport. ?I told him I can?t pay him what GE pays, but he said, ?Don?t worry about it, this is my path.?? Adult volunteers are welcome as well. Coding, the most recent element of the STEAMsport program, is done in cooperation with the Atlanta chapter of the Black Data Processing Association. The chapter had access to the coding curriculum for a High School Computer Competition team but no one to recruit additional students and volunteer instructors, find a practice space and organize sessions. ?I was looking for a continuum for our high school kids,? Oliver says. ?We were working with elementary kids and middle school kids, and I knew I wanted to get into coding because there are coding pieces in the robotics part. I looked BDPA up online and connected with them. I said, ?I have a site, I have computers, I?ll recruit the instructors and I have the kids. So the only thing I need is the curriculum.? And they said, ?Cool.?? The first team was launched in February 2015. Oliver recently connected with employees of Pardot, a Salesforce.com IT services company located in Atlanta, who have agreed to coach the 2016 HSCC team. Inspired by the success of the 2015 program, STEAMsport will introduce elementary and middle school coding competitions in 2016. ?It?s going to parallel what BDPA does with their HSCC,? Oliver says. ?We?ll use the same components, but we will simplify it for each level.? The elementary school version will probably use a drag-and-drop code building model to introduce students to the concept of coding. The middle school program will teach enough HTML and CSS to create a simple website. High school students will get the full BDPA curriculum, including Java and SQL. Oliver says he may also introduce game design. ?My problem is trying to fit all these things in,? he admits. ?I don?t want to diminish one program for the sake of another.? The Soccer Connection Sports for kids were part of the after-school programs that Oliver ran for RMRS and are an important part of STEAMsport. On Saturdays during the school year, program participants spend the morning on STEM activities and the afternoon on sports. ?We can get the most impact doing it that way, especially with the younger kids,? Oliver explains. ?We have a big countdown clock on the wall, and any time they are getting off track in the morning we say, ?Look, we are supposed to be at this particular point at this particular time and I need you guys to focus.? They know that for two hours we?re going to focus hard and after that, we?re going to go out there and put the ball in play.? Older students spend more time on STEM activities but can still play soccer afterward. Soccer became a focus in 2012, Oliver says, when the RMRS program got the use of a private softball field at the John Hope center. That caught the attention of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, a philanthropy run by the owner of the Atlanta Falcons NFL team and Atlanta United, the city?s new major league soccer team. ?We sit two blocks from the Georgia Dome, and we?ve become the urban hub for youth soccer. While we were putting together our soccer piece, Blank Foundation reps would come over every Saturday, and they were very impressed with what we?re doing on the science and technology side. So they have created a science and technolgy grant and told us we should apply.? STEAMsport will serve 120-130 students in the 2015-16 school year. ?We do everything in teams,? Oliver reports. ?Even on the nontraditional side, the fashion and design, the film festival ? that?s a competition, too. That?s why we call it STEAMsport. We have 10 kids per team, and we?re looking at 10-12 teams this year.? The organization is limited only by available resources. ?We are working through how to make it sustainable, scalable to serve more kids,? Oliver says. n 24 Diversity in Action | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

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