Minority Students Get Opportunity To Be Inventors Through Partnership With KID Museum

25 black and Hispanic students from Bethesda school got a hands-on STEAM education


One of the robotic cars students made as part of this year's Invention Studio series at the KID Museum in Bethesda

Aaron Kraut

Sunday was Meet the Inventors Day at the KID Museum in Bethesda, where 25 black and Hispanic students from Westland Middle School spent the past school year making wind-powered cell phone chargers, digital music and remotely controlled cars.

It was the first year students from Westland’s minority scholars program took part in the Invention Studio series from KID Museum, the STEAM-focused makerspace at the Davis Library. Students in the same program at Parkland Middle School in Rockville participated in the series on science, technology, engineering, math and art for the second consecutive school year.

The Westland sixth-graders were bussed to the facility for seven sessions, most of which were two hours long during the school day, for lessons on robotics, 3D printing, circuitry, digital music making and aerodynamics. Some of the students presented their final products Sunday.

“This was a great experience for me because I didn’t know I was capable of doing this,” said Marlow Buckner, one of the students who made a wind-powered cell phone charger by building a wood-frame to hold up a wheel and a set of circuits. She held a power drill in her hand as she and friend Oluwatoni Ayodeji explained the concept.

Assistant Principal Shawaan Robinson and math teacher Jayme Ferguson lead the minority scholars program at the school and organized the partnership with the KID Museum, a nonprofit that opened in October 2014 in the library. Teachers chose black and Hispanic students who exhibited leadership qualities.

Robinson and Ferguson “did really have to make a big sell because kids lost a lot of instructional time,” Westland Middle School Principal Alison Serino said. “As I’ve said in many conversations with people, any time they missed out of the classroom they gained 10 times as much here.”

The school plans to participate again next year.

Oluwatoni Ayodeji (left) and Marlow Buckner (right) describe the wind-powered cell phone charger they made through a partnership between Westland Middle School and the KID Museum. Credit: Aaron Kraut

Corlessia Daniel, Marlow’s mother, said her daughter has shown a more analytical side since starting the program.

“She analyzes her own thoughts now,” Daniel said. “This totally has empowered her to look at what she’s making, even if we’re just cooking in the kitchen.”

This year’s program for Westland and Parkland students included a visit to Glenstone, the highly touted private art collection in Potomac. Students were tasked with using the skills they learned over the year to build sculptures imitating those they saw at the museum.

Virginia Munoz, whose son Carlos goes to Parkland and came back as a mentor to younger students for this year’s program, said she was hesitant at first to allow her son to take part.

“I did let him stay after school and even when the after-school buses weren’t available, he rode the public bus and he had to do what he had to do,” Munoz said. “Hearing now that he’s a mentor, that he’s a great designer, that he’s soldering things, it means a lot to me because it gives my son aspirations that I don’t think I ever had. In my situation, we’re second-generation Mexican-Americans, I want him to be somebody.”

Serino said principals from all of the county’s middle schools will hold their regular meeting this week in the KID Museum space, and she hopes it might inspire other partnerships.

“To her credit, she saw the power of giving kids the opportunity to create and have that time for their imagination to really be unleashed as part of what they’re getting during the school day,” KID Museum founder and CEO Cara Lesser said. 

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