Faces Of The D: Michelle Reaves And Why Kids Need Access To STEM Programs, Especially Girls

STEM is here to stay and students all over are enrolling in classes that will prepare them for their future career in the field. Which brings us to our first “Faces Of The D” for the 2017-18 school year: Michelle L. Reaves.

Michelle is the executive director for Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). DAPCEP thrives on connecting metropolitan Detroit youth to exciting educational opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Here’s what Reaves had to say about the program and why STEM programs are where kids need to be—especially girls!

When did you find a passion for STEM education?

About 15 years ago, I began writing grants for Wayne State University College of Engineering outreach programs. From my research that I learned of the disparities for underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM fields. As my background focus was business, I was unaware of this issue and truly appalled at the same time. \

From that point on, I knew I had to do all within my power to help change those statistics. I continued writing grants and was eventually hired as the assistant director for Pre-College Outreach Programs. I worked on several programs focused on exposing URMs to STEM at the middle and high school level. I also worked with college-level programs to support students that majored in STEM disciplines to ensure they were on a path to graduating in the field.

How do you see the DAPCEP programs changing lives for young girls, particularly African-Americans?

DAPCEP provides an environment that encourages all children to be successful in STEM disciplines.

In our classroom, students see an equal mix of adults that have education and/or careers in STEM. We also have created several programs geared specifically for girls. This type of environment has lead to DAPCEP having a 50% female population of students over the years.

How early should parents prepare their children to become an engineer?

Parents should provide exposure to STEM concepts as early as possible. We currently begin our programming at pre-K (4 years old). We introduce students to STEM concepts and activities, as well as scientific vocabulary, to begin the foundation of learning in those areas.

Each year, we build upon those concepts to increase the student’s familiarity with STEM. By the time a student is in high school, they would have had several exposure points with various STEM disciplines. This exposure would help them find what they are really passionate about and would like to possibly pursue.

Name 5 types of unique engineer positions that exist? You know, something other than automotive or biochemistry!

Naval Reactor Engineers: Naval Reactors Engineers are officers responsible for researching, designing, maintaining, operating and regulating the nearly 100 nuclear reactors and power plants that drive the most advanced fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers on earth. It’s a challenging role serving a critical function, and one of the most highly-respected positions available in the U.S. Navy.

Biomedical Engineers: Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.

Transportation Engineers: Transportation engineers focus on the design and development of public transportation infrastructure and systems. As a discipline of civil engineering, transport engineers create roads, bridges, mass transit systems and other modes of transport to enhance society. In this capacity, these practitioners may design, operate and repair any of these assets with the aim of producing fast, efficient, safe, cost-effective, and sustainable forms of transport. Airport, highway, railroad and port engineering are all subsets of the discipline.

Aerospace Engineers: Aerospace engineers research, analyze, design, synthesize, develop and test aircraft, spacecraft and weapons.

Petroleum Engineers: Petroleum engineering deals with the production of hydrocarbons—the products of crude oil and natural gas. This above-ground field focuses on recovering fossil fuels from below ground in the most economical and environmentally friendly ways.

Lastly, put yourself in the shoes of a young girl today, aged 12-17. What would you want someone to tell you about confidence and focus?

It was a very different environment when I was that age, I did not have the ability to just “explore” new concepts, ideas, and environments. I wish I would have been given the opportunity to be exposed to the vast array of STEM disciplines or careers. Although, I was a pretty focused child, I wasn’t exposed to the limitless opportunities that were before me. I made decisions on my future without knowing all the options.

I think that’s one of the great things about DAPCEP. We are providing students with the ability to make informed decisions about their future. Being in DAPCEP classes provides students with exposure to college-life experiences, the ability to work with like-minded people, enhanced problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and an array of STEM educational experiences lead by people who look like them.

To register your child go to the DAPCEP website. Your kids will enjoy it.


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