Program brings students into the STEM conversation

For as long as he can recall, Aditya Bora has been engrossed by all things engineering related. Now, the 16-year-old junior at Johns Creek High is sharing that fascination with students around the globe as the school’s first Chief Science Officer.

Bora’s journey began when he joined the school’s robotics team as freshman.

“That’s where I learned about the opportunity from teachers who thought I’d be a good fit for the program,” he said. “So I applied and have been in it now for two years.”

At the same time, the Chief Science Officer program launched in Georgia. The global network of middle and high school students has participants in multiple U.S. states as well as Kenya, Kuwait and Mexico.

According to Eric Knapp, who directs Georgia’s CSO program, the primary goal is to have greater student input into STEM education and programming.

“It’s consistently adults at the table making decisions for children,” said Knapp, who is also the STEM coordinator at Tucker Middle School. “This program lets them have a voice at the table.”

CSO participants do that by engaging their communities in STEM activities that could be as varied as forming a club, hosting a STEM night or recruiting guest speakers from the local community.

“Through this program, students have a position from which to connect with people who are making STEM decisions,” said Knapp. “It also builds leadership skills around community development, organization and networking.”

Bora spent his initial year as CSO mapping out an action plan to generate enthusiasm for science.

“My first plan was to start a robotics team at Dolvin Elementary, my old school,” he said. “A lot of elementary school students don’t get the opportunity to learn about the cool things engineering can do. So for several months, we had 20 students to our house every Sunday, and we worked on building a robot.”

This year, Bora plans to travel to Nepal and launch a CSO program there.

“My freshman year, I joined an organization called the Himalayan Children’s Charity that provides opportunities for underprivileged kids there,” he said. “Last year, I went to Nepal and took some small robotic things to show them. That’s when I saw the opportunity for something like the Chief Science Officer program to thrive.”

In November, Bora was one of three Georgia students to attend the CSO summit in Washington, D.C. There, he was chosen as one of seven to join the program’s international leadership council – a project that will have him traveling around the country to planning and training meetings.

“I’m pretty lucky that I get to travel,” he said. “This is so fun for me. It’s given me the opportunity to work on cool projects and learn about a different side of science. And I like giving other students the opportunities I’ve had. There’s much more to technology than just building robots; it’s also about being an advocate for giving others the chance to learn about it, too.”

<em>Information about the CSO program and other schools that are participating, visit scienceatl.org/cso.</em>

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Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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