BHS Skateboard Workshop Engages Under-Represented Students in STEM – Berkeley High Jacket

Berkeley High School (BHS) teacher Dirk Wright is launching a one-semester after-school skateboarding workshop to motivate underrepresented students in engineering, robotics, carpentry, and design classes to try a course in lower-stakes vocational technical education (CTE).

The workshop is designed to encourage students who have never tried CTE courses or who are marginalized in these programs to explore woodworking, mechanics and artistic expression. It also aims to encourage students who have completed the course to enroll in other engineering, carpentry and design courses offered at BHS.

This workshop is uncredited and ungraded, so students can focus on hands-on experiences rather than their grade.

In the workshop, students will spend two hours per week developing skills such as using power tools, as well as working in the carpentry and metallurgy workshop. The end goal of this workshop is for each student to make their own skateboard.

At BHS, 171 male students are enrolled in CTE programs, but only 43 female students are enrolled.

“Students from under-represented engineering groups [and] trades are unlikely to enroll themselves in a one-year course in any of these areas, ”Wright said.

Wright also said that these students are more likely to enroll in CTE courses related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) if they are introduced to the field with a shorter course and least stake.

Clayton Hotson, a Berkeley High alumnus and senior research engineer at Autodesk, has been studying software and engineering projects for over 20 years.

“The diversity [in STEM] generates interesting discussions and possibilities on technical approaches, ”he said.

Hotson also shared her personal experience with the gender gap in STEM. “In my direct team, we have two female engineers,” he said.

Since the ratio of female and male BHS students is uneven, enrollment of girls and other under-represented groups will be prioritized for this course. However, Wright said all students will be welcome, except for students already enrolled in STEM CTE courses at BHS.

“We see this as a [disparity] which conflicts with our program goals and the need to diversify technical workplaces, ”said Wright.

When Wright sent out a survey to students enrolled in BHS CTE courses, trying to determine what the workshop would teach, some students liked the idea of ​​building guitars or bikes rather than skateboards. Other suggestions included model rockets, chairs, and other furniture. Wright and other carpentry teachers involved in the project decided that it might be too complicated or take too long to build things other than skateboards.

“Some other projects were more popular, for example building guitars, but involved overly complicated carpentry, high-level construction techniques, and / or were made only of wood or only metal,” Wright said.

The BHS Skateboard Workshop has applied for a grant that will be funded by the Berkeley High School Development Group (BHSDG).

The grant covered the costs of materials such as plywood, nuts, bolts, styrofoam and wheels. The grant also provided the funds to pay a teaching assistant student, who will be an experienced BHS student in engineering, carpentry, and design to assist and co-teach the course. The student teacher assistant will be paid a salary of $ 16 per hour.

This project has received funding from BHSDG; however, the skate workshop has not yet started. Wright hopes to open applications in the last two weeks of September and begin the workshop in the first week of October. Workshop coordinators expect to hang posters and make an announcement when dates and times are determined. They are also still looking for a teaching assistant student.

“Students will have the opportunity to gain confidence as a person who can build things and ultimately have a finished product in their hands,” Wright said.

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