Kids love cars, especially when they get to stretch their mind muscles and build their own.
“It’s going to be fun,” said David Reilly, 11.
Reilly, from Harker Heights, was spending time with a friend at STEM Saturday at the Marion J. and Alice W. Douse Community Center in Killeen. He was looking forward to showing his mom the propeller car he was about to build, and he had already learned about making ramps and calculating distance.
Seventy-five youngsters attended the Dibia DREAM event, where they stayed busy making miniature cars from foam, wheels, metal axles, a motor, switch, fan blade and an AA battery.
Then they got to race their cars and take them home.
“Collaboration is the takeaway,” said I’Tita Alexander, director of operations for Dibia DREAM. Children worked together at tables headed by 25 volunteers for the science, technology, engineering and math event.
Alexander said it was important for kids’ parents to see the cars their children engineered.
“It gets conversations started at home, and then they start practicing and creating together,” she said.
The goal was to generate interest in STEM professions, especially among underprivileged populations of young folks not exposed to scientific learning enough.
All DREAM events provide hands-on experience for little hands and growing minds, from dissecting sheep hearts to building windmills and hovercrafts.
“It was amazing when at one of our events a second-grader announced that she wanted to be a meteorologist,” said Dibia DREAM Director Yvette Holmes, from Miami.
She wants STEM Saturdays to be a quarterly event in Killeen, and to eventually have an afterschool program in Killeen public schools.
One Killen councilwoman who was volunteering at the event said she’s hoping to present a proposal to KISD to get Dibia DREAM into a local elementary school as a pilot program that could expand in the future.
“We can join forces and have the STEM program as an afterschool club,” said Debbie Nash-King, a Killeen councilwoman. “It would bring creative activities to kids to supplement what they’re learning in the classroom. Being so well-developed would affect their lives forever.”
Lea McKinnon, DREAM coordinator and Killeen Independent School District math teacher, said she notices a difference in children after they have been practicing STEM skills.
“It brings the classroom to real life, so it’s engaging, enriching and stimulating for students,” she said. “They become more interactive, sharing their stories and giving feedback. They just seem more confident.”
One of the event sponsors said the organization is trying to get a foothold in Killeen, but needs help from community sponsors.
“The kids are enjoying it and are getting to be exposed to this when they normally wouldn’t be,” said Horace Grace from the Central Texas College Foundation. “But we need sponsorship to keep it going.”
Holmes said they are seeking community partners who are interested in education and helping the underprivileged population, Dibia DREAM’s mission.
Holmes said having Alice Douse as her grandmother is what drove her from the Sunshine State to the Lone Star State for the event.
“I felt the need to continue her legacy,” she said. “Education is in my blood and this mission is my passion.”