There is no greater investment than our youth, and Roots 2 STEM is empowering the next generation of engineers and scientists as they explore, problem solve and create with hands-on projects that inspire them.
“This is the future of Calgary. We need to build a community for those future global engineers, scientists and technologists,” says Dean White, CEO and founder of Roots 2 STEM.
White knows the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. After decades of engineering projects around the world, the lifelong telecommunications engineer was ready to do something different and to give back to his community. He and his wife, Eeva, established the Engineering Academy that mirrors White’s passion for science and engineering and supports the need for hands-on STEM programs in the community.
The not-for-profit organization launched its flagship Junior Engineers program five years ago, offering students access to state-of-the-art equipment that facilitates projects limited only by the imagination. All the while it gives them a sense of community and a place to belong. Volunteer mentors help students bring their vision to life using the 3D design printer, laser cutters, milling machines, robotics equipment, gaming platforms, metalwork machinery and other high-tech tools in the 4,000-square-foot laboratory.
“There is nothing they can’t do. They can build anything they want here, as long as it doesn’t go bang,” quips White.
Roots 2 STEM offers school field trips and in-class sessions to explore STEM-centric curriculum, after-school programs for kids and a place to host birthday parties. It also offers incredible one-week summer camps covering everything from computer coding to robotics, electronics to architectural design. In addition, the organization hosts the Calgary Engineering Expo which allows students to showcase their projects and vie for prizes.
White is excited to grow his Aerospace Academy that opened in September, teaching participants about robotics, flight training, rocketry and engineering while launching rockets, simulating rover and drone missions and running off-world scientific experiments. The 10-month program can be capped off with the summer SPACE Camp, where budding astronauts can train and learn about everything extraterrestrial.
Roots 2 STEM merges the creative with the scientific while it instils the engineering design process of identifying a problem and researching and testing different solutions to solve it. This critical thinking and active problem solving is imperative for the future and something lacking in today’s schools.
“With STEM education we help schools by providing extra curriculum with hands-on projects that focus on the engineering and technology,” White says.
Unfortunately Roots 2 STEM doesn’t have adequate budgets to run and expand its programs. A combination of private school contracts, user fees for programs and a personal infusion by the White family keeps the lights on but the organization is aggressively pursuing grants and sponsorship to grow the academy and become accredited. Securing more corporate sponsorship would allow White to purchase more equipment, move into a larger space to accommodate more students, and ultimately promote STEM education in Calgary.
“Only $2,800 a year, or $240 a month, sponsors someone in the program,” says Mitchell Ravvin, director of fundraising. It’s advertising and promotion for a company and it helps us run the nonprofit’s programs.”
As word spreads about what Roots 2 STEM is all about (through events like the Engineering Expo, ESfS, Science Fair and the popularity of its own programs and camps), White hopes more corporations will step forward with sponsorship funding to help foster STEM education in the city. Dean White welcomes corporations to come down for a tour, meet the kids who are impacted every day by these programs and through nominal sponsorship, support the future today.