National Grid STEM mentoring program

A partnership between National Grid, UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Westminster Community Charter School

SEAS Student working on an experiment with kids from Westminster Charter School.

Hands-on science experiments at UB together with in-classroom science lessons form the basis of the UB-National Grid-Westminster Community Charter School partnership.

UB and National Grid collaborate to bring scientists and engineers to Buffalo Promise Neighborhood School Westminster Community Charter School (WCCS), once a month to guide students through structured, hands-on science experiments. UB faculty and staff utilize a combination of professional online teaching resources and qualitative feedback from BPN teachers to develop our 60-minute lessons.

STEM Exploration Week

Every January, all Westminster Community Charter School students have the opportunity to do hands-on science experiments with scientists and engineers in Davis Hall at UB. These field trips allow students to participate in a variety of science and engineering-themed activities with practical applications. Student favorites include hovercraft rides, building balloon-powered vehicles, making solar powered lanterns and testing wind turbine blades.

Notable contributors to STEM Exploration Week include:

  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Faculty
    • Jenn Winikus, CSE
    • Mark Swihart, CBE
    • Kris Schindler, CSE
    • Jim Jenson, CSEE
    • Frank Lagor, MAE
    • Mostafa Nouh, MAE
    • Filip Stefanovic, BME
  • Sensors and Micro Actuators Learning Lab (SMALL)
  • UB Nanosat Laboratory
  • GEM Community of Excellence
    • Sandra Small
  • College of Arts and Sciences
    • Department of Geology
    • Department of Anthropology
    • Department of Math
PhD student showing a science experiment to students from Westminster Charter School during their visit to UB, 2016.

For two weeks in January, dozens of K-8 students from Westminster Community Charter School visit the UB campus for fun STEM activities. The event is sponsored by National Grid.

Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Saturday Academy

In addition to visiting BPN schools during the school day, UB now participates in Saturday Academies held at both schools. Each Saturday has a different theme for the day, examples include: I’m Thankful, Power Up Buffalo, and Career Fair. This gives families to chance to interact with UB staff and students on short exploratory activities and learn about further opportunities outside the classroom, such as engineering summer camps and community engagement nights on campus.

The 2020 Partnership

May of 2020 will mark the completion our first year working with kindergarten and first grade at Highgate Heights Elementary, in addition to operating the full K-5 curriculum at WCCS. The program began with kindergarten and first-grade classes at WCCS in January 2014. By Fall 2017 the program included all students in kindergarten through 5th grade. Our vision is to expand the program at Highgate to mirror our engagement with Westminster by the end of 2023. Future STEM Exploration Field Trips will also expand to include middle school level students from Highgate Heights.

National Grid Logo.

More about National Grid

Studies have shown that the United States lags behind other countries in STEM education. UB and partners like National Grid are working to combat that pattern by hosting engineering camps, volunteering in public schools and implementing other initiatives.  

National Grid’s sponsorship of this program is part of the company’s larger "Engineering Our Future" initiative, which provides funding support to address STEM needs. Like many technical businesses, National Grid faces a potential shortage of engineers to help design and run tomorrow’s energy networks.

UB/National Grid Leadership Camp

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and National Grid also team up each summer to sponsor a five-day engineering campp for Western New York high school students. Learn more here.