Brooklyn Park camp hopes to catapult kids of color into engineering careers

A unique summer camp that’s wrapping up Friday in Brooklyn Park is designed to get kids to think about an engineering career -- especially children of color.

The camp has kids teaming up on a battlefield: Team A taking on Team B. Their weapon of choice: Catapults. For nine-year-old Daviaye Dickerson, it’s been hard work.

"We really didn’t know how to do it until we read the directions," said Dickerson.

The two-part competition is to launch a ball closest to a target in the center of the basketball court. It teaches kids how to use math and the principles of physics to make adjustments to hit the target.

Next, they readjust to launch the ball to the farthest height. This is all part of the "Summer Engineering Experience for Kids" or SEEK.

It’s a three-week camp by the National Society of Black Engineers to spark an interest in science and technology with kids of color. The goal is to graduate 10,000 new engineers each year by 2025.

"Big goal," says Alfonzo Harley of the National Society of Black Engineers, "but we’re definitely increasing as the time goes on, and we are able to impact the community in this way, we’re all for it."

And summer camps like this are especially important in Minnesota because of our chronic achievement gap within our communities of color. That’s why camps like this, in a small way, are teaching these kids to dream big. And that starts young -- the camp focuses on 8, 9, and 10-year-old students.

"A lot of these kids, unfortunately, don’t have these types of figures in their lives," said Harley. "So when they hear engineer, it’s not a household term yet. So we definitely try to impact that and increase their understanding of that of what it is and what it is to be an engineer.”

And it has one student already thinking out wanting to learn more science.

“Even though I like computer engineering, I will probably still do that," says Princeton Ragland, a fourth Grader. "But, mostly I would like to learn more about chemicals and chemical reactions."

Some of the first students to enter these STEM camps 13 years ago are just now graduating with their engineering degrees. Cummins is the major sponsor of the camp here in Brooklyn Park, and the sponsorship ensures that the kids attend for free.