Black TDSB students explore the wide world of Engineering in latest summer program
By Hilary Caton, Communications Officer
This summer 15-year-old Ilelemwanta Nomaren decided to challenge himself by doing something new and exciting.
He signed up for the Black Students Adventures in Engineering (BSAE) program offered by the Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement, (CEBSA) which partnered with the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering Secondary School to give secondary students the opportunity to explore computer science.
“It opened my eyes to new potentials in the tech field. For anyone who's thinking about what to do in the summer… It's actually a great idea!” says Nomaren.
Nomaren was excited to hear the course was being offered to students at Toronto District School Board (TDSB) especially for Black students. He says getting more Black students, like himself interested in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) field is a “very nice idea” and was glad for the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of computer science.
From June 28th to July 23rd Black identified students across the TDSB, were able to choose from two hands-on courses― Exploring Technological Design (TDJ10) and Creative Computing: Introduction to Computer Studies (ICS20).
Over an intense four weeks, students logged on virtually three times a week to learn the fundamentals of computer science and engineering design and it’s affects and influences on the environment and society.
Upon completion, students accumulated 110 hours of online work and received an elective credit towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). Traditionally these courses cost roughly $950 each, but because this partnering opportunity was available through the Ministry of Education funding, students did not have to pay the course fee.
For the Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement, choosing to partner with the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering Secondary School was important because of the opportunity it gives Black students to see themselves in fields where Black people are traditionally underrepresented.
Richardo Harvey, who is a Graduation Coach for Black Students, was the team lead of the program for TDSB students and acted as their advisor. He saw this as an opportunity to get more Black Students interested in STEM careers.
“It gives them awareness of the possibilities and provides them with a steppingstone into the more junior level sciences, which will now lead them into the engineering fields. This is their opportunity to explore,” explains Harvey.
“At the Centre, we see this program as a unique once in a lifetime opportunity for exploration, mentorship and support.”
The program was offered to students from Grades 8 to 12, Jaylah Anthony Thompson was the only Grade 8 student to be accepted into the program. This was her chance to discover if this type of engineering is the right fit for her as a career choice. As it turns out, it’s not. But she’s okay with that realization.
“If I didn’t take the course I wouldn’t know if I liked it or not, but now I know that even though I like problem solving, computer engineering isn’t for me,” Anthony Thompson explains.
“But I would say that it was definitely a good experience because I was with a group of older kids and I got to learn from them too. And I feel like there's still a lot more that I can learn in terms of engineering. So, I’ll keep learning about it.”
In the future, Harvey hopes to push for a STEM bootcamp that will expose more Black students to different careers in those fields, as well as provide an opportunity for those who have been through the program to mentor the new participants. Also, on the horizon is continuing to partner with different universities to offer students who identify as Black an introduction to different career pathways.
Both Nomaren and Anthony Thompson would recommend their peers to sign up for the BSAE summer program even if the program is fast paced. They say it’s a chance to try something new and discover for yourself where your passions may lie.
“I feel like it's an experience that I wouldn’t want to miss out on, again,” says Anthony Thompson.