Teens Engineer BHM is a pilot afterschool program at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) that partners teens from local middle and high schools with UAB engineering students. Under the guidance of the UAB engineer mentors, students learn how to code, work with computer design and create their own projects.
The program had become so popular with students that BPL requested funding to expand the program from three library locations to five. A $95,000 grant from the Community Foundation allowed BPL to expand Teens Engineer BHM and purchase laptops, software, tools, safety equipment and fund stipends for the UAB engineer mentors.
Lance Simpson, department head of BPL’s The Learning Center, says the grant helps open up new career possibilities by giving the students early experience and knowledge of coding and computer design. “We recently had an eighth grade student from Phipps Academy join the program,” says Simpson. “He became so involved working with one of the UAB mentors to design a shark-shaped iPhone case he had dreamed up that he completed a college level CAD (computer assisted design) course. “ Lance said the young student was so excited that he has been back every week since, “It definitely makes what we are doing worthwhile.”