A comprehensive science education is something most kids take for granted. But the truth is, although California has produced some of America's most celebrated innovators, its students test below the national average in science, according to the National Assessment for Educational Progress. The state's results on a science test that is periodically administered nationwide also compared poorly with those of most other states.
This statistic is concerning to employers in the technology, science and engineering fields because today's students are our future employees. We want to help provide them with the widest breadth of science and engineering opportunities possible at a young age so that they can cultivate their potential and apply that talent to creating meaningful changes in their professional and personal lives.
Many students have the intelligence and practical skills to excel in science and technology; however, in underprivileged communities, some of the most adept students are not given the chance to realize that talent due to a lack of resources in schools.
To help confront the challenges that schools in the Los Angeles community face, including underfunded, inadequate and one-dimensional science education programs, this October the Hitachi Southern California Regional Community Action Committee (SCRCAC) hosted its 8th annual "Hitachi Celebrates Science Day."
In partnership with the California Science Center, the event hosted more than 170 children, teachers and parents from schools and youth programs across Los Angeles, including Carver Elementary School, Boys Academic Leadership Academy, East L.A. Rising Boys and Girls Club, No Limits for Deaf Children and The Accelerated Schools.
This year's theme was "Robotics to the Rescue," which featured Hitachi's humanoid robot EMIEW 3 interacting with attendees through dancing, talking and speaking in sign language. Throughout the day, students took part in interactive learning activities, including building robotic arms and engaging with EMIEW, and it was this hands-on experience that resonated with attendees.
The SCRCAC companies partnered together with Northern California Hitachi America, Ltd. roboticists to bring EMIEW to life and ensure the day ran smoothly. They also hosted a meet and greet prior to the event with educators throughout the Los Angeles area.
"The best part of field trips is to see the expression of awe on a child's face," emphasized Anna Araujo, Executive Director at East L.A. Rising. "From the venue to the interactive robot, EMIEW, to their glee when the robotic arms worked, the day was awe-inspiring."
It's the visible excitement of the children at their own success that motivates us to continue hosting this event year after year. Zuset, a fifth grader at The Accelerated Schools, said of the experience, "I had a really good time. […] I made a robotic arm with my team members. It took a long time but we did it!"
Hitachi Celebrates Science Day brings science to youth who may live in at-risk and underfunded educational communities. By experiencing science in a dynamic and interactive environment, we hope to raise the interest of many of these students in pursuing a STEM career.
Outreach programs like these are critical in delivering a medium for children to recognize that it is possible to excel academically and professionally. As Tony Collins, an attendee from the Bridge Builders Organization, put it, "the exposure is just what our students require to increase their chances for a highly productive and successful life."