libraryAn important outreach effort by the School of Engineering continues to grow, thanks to a big grant awarded to the Birmingham Public Library (BPL).

BPL recently received a $95,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. The funds will be used to expand Teens Engineer Birmingham, a pilot afterschool program that pairs engineering faculty and students with teens. The program is currently held at three city libraries – Central, Southside and Woodlawn, but BPL will use the grant money to expand the program to five libraries over the next two years. 

The Community Foundation announced the grant and other recipients on May 26.

Teens Engineer Birmingham began at the Central Library in 2015. Last year, it was expanded to Southside and Woodlawn branch libraries after BPL won a $50,000 Community Impact Grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund.

Mentors from the UAB School of Engineering, led by Outreach Director Abidin Yildirim, Ph.D., provide weekly STEM-based robotics programming students who come from home schools as well as nearby schools such as Phillips Academy, Woodlawn and Ramsay high schools.

The $95,000 grant from the Community Foundation will be used to buy laptops, software, tools, safety equipment, and to fund stipends for the UAB engineering students mentoring the teens at the five libraries across the city.

“This expansion will mean more opportunities for teenagers to get involved in STEM, but it is also a great opportunity for UAB faculty and students to give back to the Birmingham community,” said Yildirim. “Outreach programs such as this one are vitally important to make sure young people are exposed to the opportunities that are available to them in STEM fields, such as engineering.”

“We are excited, our teens and parents are excited, and our UAB mentors and partners in the UAB School of Engineering are overjoyed to have the support of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham,” said Lance Simpson, department head of BPL’s The Learning Center. “The program is all about providing knowledgeable mentors to work one on one with our teens and sharing their passion for engineering, and the teens have loved it.”

Since its inception, the teens participating in the afterschool engineering program have gained valuable knowledge from building and programming robots to just getting to talk and work with UAB mentors, he said.

“We can't wait to see what the next two years will bring,” Simpson said. “We are so grateful to the UAB Benevolent Fund for their initial faith and support in our pilot project, and now to the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham for their support in the next phase.”

“A special thanks to Lance Simpson and Melvia Walton for the hard work and tireless effort they put forth to write the grant,” said Sandi Lee, interim director of BPL. ”Lance gave a stellar presentation to the eight member visiting team from the CFGB in the Learning Lab.  The grant will be used to expand programs to libraries in each of our five regions, ensuring that teens across the city will have access over the next two years. This is a great win for the citizens of Birmingham and the young patrons of BPL who will participate.”

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