W. Oakland kids learn about engineering


Jason Phillips is having fun pumping a balloon that will make his jet toy accelerate. At the same time, Phillips is learning that once the wheels touch the floor, something called 'friction' will slow it down.

"When something rubs, the energy is losing," said Phillips. "Like when you rub your hands, you are losing energy."

Phillips and 300 West Oakland kids between the ages of eight and 10 are participating in a three-week camp called "Sumer Engineering Experience for Kids" or SEEK.

SEEK was started in 2007 by the National Society of Black Engineers. The group has been operating camps mostly on the east coast, but for the first time, they're in Oakland.

"We wanted to put it in their minds that STEM is a cool thing, and in a few years I can be a college engineering major in electrical engineering, mechanical or civil," said Franklin Moore with the National Society of Black Engineers.

STEM is an academic acronym for "Science, Technology, Engineering and Math."

Making a skimmer glide, powered by the wind, is another project which teaches them that the size, design and shape of a sail matter.

"It controls the wind," said Emahni Burns, "The wind is blowing it so it's going like this."

A rubber band and some metal washers inside a coffee can help move a steel can rover.

"You spin it, and inside there is a rubber band, you twist it and it winds up," said James Williams. "The rubber band is kinda used as the engine."

Coaching the kids during the three weeks are African-American college students from across the nation. Nearly all of the mentors are majoring in engineering.

"They'll learn different skills they'll need like math, learn how to do the medians and means, and with their science they can learn stuff like biology," said the University of Ohio's Briana Yarbrough.

The mentors earn $2,000, with Intel being one of the sponsors of the program.

"Programs like this give hands-on experience," said Leroy Tripette with Intel. "Hit the children early and spark that interest at a very early age."

That interest could help them someday land a job in engineering -- perhaps even at Intel.

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