STEAM Sports Foundation: The Back Story, The Need
When Bob Dickinson started STEAM Sports Foundation in 2016, he had just returned from a four-year stint in the Bay Area. There he had interacted with Silicon Valley companies and executives that touched sports and entertainment and sought talent from non-traditional avenues. No longer were sports marketing, communications, broadcasting or journalism majors the highest demand. Companies were looking for engineers, computer scientists, neuro-psychologists, data analysts – a cross section of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Traditionally, the majority of STEM/STEAM programs target K-9 grades. He was told that students lost interest as they entered high school and got distracted by all the attractions of adolescence. He rationalized, however, that as teenagers became caught up in all the distractions of entertainment, music, and sports, why not use those platforms to show how much fun STEAM could be and where the career opportunities were?
He began by doing a STEAM sports career summit on the campus of San Jose State University, featuring Silicon Valley companies large and small (i.e., Intel, Avaya, CrowdKing, Team Runner). He mixed in top IT executives from the San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, San Jose Sharks, San Jose Earthquake, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Super Bowl 50 President Keith Bruce moderated the panels and legendary sports exec Andy Dolich emceed the event.
Then he was off on the IndyCar circuit, courtesy of Honda Performance Development group that wanted to showcase STEAM on college campuses in markets where they had races – and recruited students. Soon engineering departments and their Formula SAE student teams were showcasing their car builds to local high school students as Honda IndyCar drivers and engineers extolled STEAM-oriented careers in motorsports.
The next mission was to create a scholarship fund to help young people with an interest in STEAM and sports/entertainment. STEAM Sports Foundation’s board of directors wrapped their arms around motorsports and decided to create a very specific scholarship for a very specific marginalized student – a female aspiring engineer of color with a passion for the auto industry whose future was focusing more and more on EVs and Avs – electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles.
Enter Kimberly Betty, a student via Jamaica at Kettering University in Flint, MI. Betty was one of 20 applicants for the inaugural $5,000 scholarship, whose finalists included women of Native American, Asian, Latin American and Black heritages. Betty, who earned the initial grant, will intern this summer via NASAR’s internship program, most likely with Michael Jordan’s 23xi race team and driver Bubba Wallace.
“Being the first recipient of this scholarship and internship means a lot to me,” said Betty upon being named the grant recipient. “Coming from Jamaica, I had very little exposure to automotive and robotics; however, the environment that Kettering curates for its students has been a driving force for me to learn more and become more involved in the industry. This scholarship not only alleviates my financial burden but also allows me to learn more about the racing industry and autonomous vehicles.”
And thus is the mission – to create opportunities for a sector of students who never in their wildest dreams growing up ever thought they would have an opportunity to have a career in something they thought so fun and rewarding.
As Dickinson continues to beat the drum for opportunities that have been difficult to come by for some students, particularly those who don’t traditionally look like them, he also understands the challenges of moving forward.
“We need individuals, corporations and foundations who have a similar passion to turn out next generation of engineers who will drive forward an industry many believe is one of the most vital, important and impactful industries it the world – the transportation industry.