Because Black girls have a passion for all things Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) too!

The STEM field has been known to have limited spaces for women, specifically Black women. Now, one organization is making strides to change the narrative. The UC Davis Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education, better known as C-STEM, has received an amazing gift to allow them to tap into the resources needed to introduce Black girls to engineering and robotics at a younger age. 

According to UC Davis, a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation will now provide the organization with vital resources needed to equip participants with the skills that they need to excel in STEM throughout their communities, careers, and within their schools.

The Ujima Girls in Robotics Leadership Project will be led by C-STEM Director and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Harry Cheng; assistant professor in the UC Davis School of Education, Faheemah Mustafaa; and former board president of the Umoja Community Education Foundation and a senior advisor to the C-STEM Center, Teresa Aldredge. It has one mission- to teach middle and high school-aged girls about the ways that engineering and robotics can make a difference in their daily lives.

“This grant will illuminate the talent that our Black girls already have inside them and provide a safe and nurturing environment for growth and development,” said Aldredge. “I’m honored to be a part of this important endeavor for our community.”

1. What The Project Provides

When young girls sign up for The Ujima Girls in Robotics Project, they’ll receive free, hands-on engineering and robotics programs that will help them form the skills needed to thrive in the field of engineering. 

The project includes a culturally relevant environment, which is key to allowing them to see themselves reflected in the STEM industry.

“This is an exciting opportunity to further encourage the creativity, leadership, and scientific genius of Black girls and young women in ways that many don’t have access to in their day-to-day schooling,” said Mustafaa in an official statement on the UC Davis website. “I am hopeful about the mutually empowering benefit of this project for the participants, our research team, and everyone else involved.”

2. The Importance Of The Project

Access and visibility are key factors of the program. Through the introduction of STEM applications and leadership at the middle school level, Black girls’ interest will continue to grow and develop through their high school years, which in turn increases the chances that they will remain in the field.

3. The Community Aspect Behind The Project

The term “Ujima” is a Swahili word for “collective work and responsibility” — one that many are familiar with through the Kwanzaa holiday. The Ujima GIRL Camp is one of the successful programs created within the C-STEM Center to reiterate its commitment to serving middle and high school girls across California.

Professor Cheng’s vision was to build a mentoring pipeline that will keep participants involved from their first camp all the way through college. Participants are even encouraged to return to the program while in their respective STEM careers to serve as coaches.

“We want to give students a life-changing experience and inspire them to go into college, post-secondary studies, and careers in STEM,” said Cheng. “This program will help them make a real-world connection with math because we want to give them the tools to be successful in their academic programs and learn in the years ahead.”

Click here for more information on how to get involved with the C-STEM Center.