Roots 2 STEM is a non-profit education program that teaches STEM skills to youth beginning in grade 1. A hands-on, creative and inclusive learning environment, the program is the brain child of Dean White, a graduate of University of Calgary in Electrical Engineering and a longstanding member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), and his wife Eeva, also a graduate of University of Calgary and self-described life-long learner.
White’s international engineering career fostered opportunities across many sectors including satellite communications and navigation systems with Canadian and international oil & gas companies, Community Access Television (CATV), and the Canadian Military. Rather than retire, White chose to combine his passion for engineering and technology with Unesco’s vision of using human ingenuity and talent to address global challenges. The result was Roots 2 STEM, which the Whites co-founded in 2014.
Dedicated to building a local sustainable STEM community, Roots 2 STEM is housed in a 4000 sq. ft. facility in SE Calgary boasting classrooms, a laboratory workshop, 15 computer-equipped workstations, 3-D printers, CNC machines, robots, a flight simulator, and a kit of digital, electric and manual tools. Roots 2 STEM operates with a staff of approximately 60 volunteers, mentors, instructors, program facilitators and summer help.
Since inception, over 3500 youth have attended Roots 2 STEM programs. While enrolled in programs, students work on STEM projects of their choice with one–on-one mentoring in both hard and soft skills. Roots 2 STEM creates a safe learning environment where collaboration, creative and systemic problem solving, confidence, critical thinking, and leadership and mentoring are modeled. These skills both Dean and Eeva consider as important as STEM.
Throughout projects, Roots 2 STEM students are challenged to ask themselves “How can your engineering applications change the world and make it a better place?” Here are some examples:
· “Carla’s” Hand - A 14-year-old young woman designed and built a 3D printed functional bright purple hand for a 3-year-old Calgary girl named Carla who wanted to have a second hand to collect eggs at an Easter Egg Hunt. The experience was life-changing for both.
· Confidence builder for teen – A local engineer sponsored an economically disadvantaged teen to attend Roots 2 STEM programs and at the end of the experience, “she is glowing and grinning from ear to ear”, says her mother.
· Teen discovers his inner engineer- A 14-year-old teen attends two years of summer camps and is now attending a pre-engineering program at a Calgary high school towards a future career as an engineer.
Advice from Roots 2 STEM Co-founders for youth:
“You could have a really great career in STEM if you’re doing something you like and you’re proud of. It’s a great field. Choose the direction and discipline you want to do (i.e. engineering, science, technology – academic or hands-on). STEM jobs are very rewarding financially and spiritually.” Dean White
“Make sure that you keep your curiosity going and don’t limit yourself too early about what would make your heart sing.” Eeva White