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k2i academy engages Black youth in STEM through innovative programming

In February, the k2i academy at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering welcomed over 400 Black students from grades five through 12 for an exciting hands-on learning experience.

As part of the Path2STEM and SHSM (Specialist High Skills Major) in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, students from the Toronto District School Board and Peel District School Board had a unique opportunity to explore and engage with STEM fields.

This initiative, generously funded by the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, unfolded over two days. Each day was dedicated to different grade levels, with students in grades 5 through 10 participating in the Path2STEM program, and those in grades 11 and 12 taking part in the SHSM in STEM program. All activities were designed to not only provide practical STEM skills but also to highlight the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Students participating in activities, led by the k2i academy
Students participating in activities, led by the k2i academy

Students participating in activities, led by the k2i academy

The Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism has provided the k2i academy $523,800 over two years, to support the Bringing STEM to Life: In Schools Specialist High Skills Major in STEM for Black Youth program. This project, in collaboration with the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN), focuses on career pathways, skill development, and mentorship, illustrating a collective commitment to building a more inclusive STEM community.

“The Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism is proud to support k2i academy in delivering on this important work, including the recent Path2STEM event,” said Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism. “Path2STEM provided over 400 Black youth with hands-on activities in a wide array of areas including engineering design, computational thinking, coding and electronics. k2i’s work supports the Black Youth Action Plan’s mission of helping participants develop skills to launch their careers in high-demand sectors and working towards eliminating race-based disparities by dismantling barriers and increasing opportunities for Black children, youth and families across Ontario.”

The k2i academy’s mentor team led students through hands-on sessions in engineering design, coding, robotics and 3D design. A notable workshop, led by Lassonde Professor Solomon Boayke-Yiadom and PhD candidate Joseph Agyapong, focused on creating meaningful connections with the participants.

“Learning about coding and robotics was cool but also tough,” said a student who took part in the experience. “The best part was making my robot do things like move and pick up marbles. It was also fun to see that stuff we do with robots and engineering can help with big problems like climate change.”

Students at the Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM events
Students at the Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM events

Students at the Path2STEM and SHSM in STEM events

High school students also got to take part in a hackathon experience, designed to solve real-world problems in transportation and mobility. This immersive challenge encouraged teamwork and innovation, as students worked to develop solutions for smart roads, the safety of autonomous vehicles, and accessibility issues.

“At Peel District School Board, we have developed a Black Student Success Strategy with objectives to integrate the experiences of Black Canadians into the curriculum and inspire and support Black student success,” says Camille Logan, Associate Director, Peel District School Board. “The k2i Path2STEM and SHSM programs align with this work. Characterized by a deliberate focus on uplifting Black students in STEM and enhancing teacher capabilities, this program has flourished into an excellent partnership with the k2i academy. Together, we are not just addressing gaps; we are laying the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive future in STEM education.”

The k2i academy aims to break systemic barriers and transform the future of STEM, ensuring that Black youth see themselves as integral parts of these fields today and in the future.

“Our educational systems have deeply rooted inequities that must be addressed,” says Lisa Cole, Director of Programming, k2i academy. “As we work alongside collaborative partners including school boards, the CBSN, faculty, community members and government, we are better able to design programs that create impact by enhancing access to opportunities, resulting in more equitable outcomes for students and families.”