Staff and students at Blackburn Labratory Middle School collaborated with Jackson State University for the Minority Male Makers Program developed by Verizon.

Staff and students at Blackburn Laboratory Middle School collaborated with Jackson State University for the Minority Male Makers Program developed by Verizon.

Verizon Corp. has awarded Jackson State University a two-year grant totaling $347,949 for its Minority Male Makers Program, which equips more than 700 minority middle school boys throughout the country with high-level skills – from 3D design to app development.

The program completed its first phase at JSU on July 10 with 25 students from Blackburn Laboratory Middle School, along with several educators and volunteers. It addresses the under-representation of minority men in STEM fields and provides steps to close the gaps.

JSU is one of four leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the nation directing this pioneering program, which instructs students five days per week during intensive, eight-hour per day technology classes on campus throughout the summer.

Among the HBCUs, JSU launched first.

Dr. Ayanna Gill, coordinator for Blackburn Laboratory Middle School, said, “We are fortunate to have the program, and we are the first one out of the gate. Verizon is helping JSU leverage its resources to bolster student performance.” Furthermore, she said, the program gives every young student an opportunity to think innovatively and creatively impact future generations. Gill is also the principal investigator for the Minority Male Makers Verizon grant.

Dr. Kamal Ali, chair of the Industrial Systems Technology Department at JSU, said, “Students in the Minority Male Makers performed admirably. They learned how to develop apps, came up with their own ideas and created solid 3D objects on the computer. It was amazing how quickly they caught on. Because the curriculum developed for them was finished in half the time, we had to redesign it. Overall, the seventh-graders proved that the younger you are the more capable you are at handling technology.”

Innovations by Blackburn Middle School students included apps to gauge the distance of school buses for morning pickups and tracking potholes throughout the city, said Ali, curriculum coordinator for Minority Male Makers.

Next summer, JSU aims to increase the number of participants to 50 students.

For more information, see Diverse Issues Verizon.