Tyner Middle Academy students won fifth place at a robotics competition working under instructors at Urban League. (Photo: Contributed)

One of Urban League of Greater Chattanooga’s signature programs is helping minority and low-income middle school students tackle STEM subjects with confidence.

"The aim of the program is to introduce kids to STEM," Caroline Nord, Urban League education program director, said. "The numbers of minority students in technology and engineering careers are low. This [program] exposes them to what STEM is all about. A lot of students are afraid to go into the field because they’re not good at math."

Urban League created the program in 2008 to help bring up state standardized test scores in schools in minority or low-income areas. 

According to the Urban League, 94 percent of students at Dalewood, Orchard Knob, Tyner, Chattanooga School of the Arts and Sciences, and Ivy Academy are low-income, 86 percent black and 5 percent Hispanic.

Students in these schools are more than three times more likely to score below proficient in reading and math than a Caucasian peer on standardized tests, also according to the website. 

The Project Ready STEM Academy has two on-site locations—Tyner Middle Academy and Chattanooga School of the Arts and Sciences—where students can receive 12 to 15 extra hours practicing science and math each week through hands-on lessons.

In early February, students from Tyner Middle Academy enrolled in the Project Ready program placed fifth in the Super Regional Robotic Tournament at Georgia Tech after working with Urban League instructors. This was the group’s first year in the competition. Next year, they plan to come back and do even better.

"We have to stay on our tiptoes and ask, 'Where do we want to be next year?'" Nord said.

Through these programs, Project Ready STEM Academy is seeing some success. A majority of the students who stay with the program through high school go to college after graduation. Some of the students are currently working at EPB or studying to be pediatric doctors.

"Not everyone is going to be a scientist," Nord said. "But the likelihood of them going into these fields is much higher if they are exposed to it."

For more about the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, click here.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is also currently attending UTC, where she is the news editor for the school newspaper, The University Echo.