Provide High Quality STEM Education Through Robotics

Give Philadelphia students access to free STEM education through coursework exploring robotics, 3D printed robots, and an online AP Computer Science Prep course.

Steppingstone Scholars, Inc. seeks to provide Philadelphia students access to free, high quality, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education with coursework exploring Robotics, 3D printed robots and an online AP Computer Science Prep course. Our project, the STEM Education Collaborative, is an innovative partnership between Steppingstone Scholars and the University of Pennsylvania to develop and implement a robotics-based STEM curricula and programming that spans 4th grade to college and is focused on reducing achievement access gaps in STEM related fields.

In our Academic Year and Summer programming, students learn how to build robots, along with Java and Arduino computer programming, Physics, Calculus, Trigonometry, and Geometry. Additionally, Steppingstone is also committed to developing curriculum and training opportunities for School District of Philadelphia teachers so that the technology developed is used to support student learning.


What is the community need that this idea addresses?

Despite job availability, 26% of Philadelphians live in poverty and nearly 41% of the working-age population are unemployed. Philadelphia also ranks 7th among large US cities for growth in tech hiring. However, tech employers report challenges finding skilled professionals and it is an industry that severely lacks diversity. As of 2016, 6% were African American and Latinx, despite being 58% of the city’s population.

Steppingstones’ idea is to build the skills needed for tech careers in students starting in middle school. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, on average 1.7% students in the School District of Philadelphia are enrolled in a Computer Science course per year. Students need to see, experience, and believe that participation in school and work have payoffs. The steady growth of tech jobs in Philadelphia will provide that payoff for those with the skills; skills that Steppingstones’ STEM curriculum aims to build.

What is the solution that is currently in place?

Steppingstone works to solve the broken K-12 college and workforce pipeline in Philadelphia through a robotics-based 4th grade to College curriculum, currently under development with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering to narrow the preparation and achievement gaps in technology related fields for students to bridge the opportunity divide.

Steppingstone offers courses on Saturdays during the school year and on weekdays during the summer, where students learn how to build robots, along with learning Java and Arduino computer programming, Physics, Calculus, Trigonometry, and Geometry. The school year courses are held at Temple University and summer courses at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2018-19, 82% of students in the introductory course received 75% or better on their end of course math assessments. In the advanced course, 91% of the students received 70% or better on physics and computer programming assessments, and 80% of college students are pursuing majors in technology fields.

How will a Key to Community Grant help?

The grant will provide partial funding for us to expand our current STEM education offerings by:

  • Opening spaces to 50 new School District students per year to participate in our robotics course for 11th and 12th graders and building out the STEM career advising and internship programming to connect students directly to the tech industry.
  • Developing and fabricating 3D Printable Robots at School District Middle School partners and developing curriculum and training opportunities for teachers.
  • Launching an Online AP Computer Science Course using the Coursera platform. The course will be available for students in schools across the country to have free access to quality preparation for the AP exam.

Idea Submitted by:

Steppingstone Scholars Inc.

Steppingstone Scholars, working with families and school partners, provides rigorous educational programming and support for talented under-served students in the Philadelphia Region to achieve academic success, opportunity, and a college degree.

Steppingstone is based in North Philadelphia, on Temple University’s campus, serving over 2,500 students. For 20 years, Steppingstone has provided low-income, high-achieving students with out-of-school time enrichments that help them enroll and graduate from high-quality high schools and universities.

Our focus in North and West Philadelphia neighbourhoods is to build a K-12 college and workforce pipeline. We currently provide in-school Math enrichments, Afterschool and Summer STEM programming, and school-wide high school selection guidance in three School District of Philadelphia Middle Schools. For high school students, Steppingstone offers an out-of-school time academic enrichment program on Temple’s campus. We embed robotics and coding throughout these programs targeting the digital divide.