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STEM Cubs gets boost from local chapter of construction organization

A girl frames her face with kinect toys.

The funding from the Construction Specification Institute allowed the latest STEM Cubs event to double in size, from 60 kids total to 120, and ensured that they were provided with food and materials for the various activities, including building ramps, 3D printing, constructing string telephones and more. Photo courtesy of Tojan Rahhal.

The first STEM Cubs event saw Mizzou Engineering, the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies and the Office of Inclusivity, Diversity and Outreach come together to provide a great event intended to grow interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for kids from kindergarten through fifth grade.

For the second edition, held in November, organizers were looking to build upon the first, and for that, they needed some additional financial support. A mutual acquaintance brought together one of the organizers with an interested organization, and a partnership was born.

Susan Hart, vice president and owner of Huebert Builders, Inc., serves as treasurer for the Construction Specification Institute (CSI), a national community of architects, engineers, contractors and other construction-related entities, and the organization has a local chapter in central Missouri. She was at a dinner for the Diversity Awareness Partnership in Columbia when she was introduced to Tojan Rahhal, the College of Engineering’s director of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives. The two later met again at a women’s leadership seminar in October.

Rahhal filled Hart in on the mission of STEM Cubs — raising interest in STEM among children of primarily traditionally underrepresented groups in the STEM fields, including women and minorities. CSI had additional scholarship funds, and after a vote, decided to use them to support this year’s STEM Cubs event, and Hart hopes the organization will continue supporting the camp in the future.

Hart said her experience growing up has spurred her to help support women in STEM and construction, and she is particularly excited about the College of Engineering’s efforts under Dean Elizabeth Loboa and Rahhal.

“I was a woman who grew up in rural Missouri in the 70s and 80s. I was really good at math, but I had an old-fashioned high school counselor who said that since I was good at math, I should be a teacher or a bookkeeper,” she explained.

“I should’ve been an engineer, but that’s how life goes. I majored in accounting but also calculus because I was good at it. I really feel passionate about the promotion of diversity in engineering because I know how my life was affected by not having those opportunities.”

The funding allowed the latest STEM Cubs event to double in size, from 60 kids total to 120, and ensured that they were provided with food and materials for the various activities, including building ramps, 3D printing, constructing string telephones and more.

Rahhal said she hopes that CSI’s generosity leads to even more industrial support of future STEM Cubs events. The camps are valuable not only as a method of introducing underrepresented populations to STEM at a young age, but also as a way to develop best practices for impacting students at the elementary school level and to see just how much of an impact events such as this have over time.

“A lot of companies are talking about building a pathway to STEM, and this is a perfect example of building this pathway,” Rahhal explained.

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