Black students

Not Everyone Believes a Girl Like Me Could Become an Engineer, But Mr. Bass Does

Starting my freshmen year of high school, I enrolled in my high school’s new engineering program. The program consisted of three courses taught over three years by a retired engineer, Mr. Bass. I have always been drawn to math and science, however, I did not have much knowledge of the many applications and possibilities of integration between subjects. So, when I was told about the new program and how it was recommended for students with an interest in math, science, problem-solving or anything else related, I jumped at the chance to learn about engineering. Deciding to start the engineering course at my high school, introduced me to the field I would later pursue in college and an amazing mentor and teacher. Mr. Bass was an electrical engineering who graduated from MIT, and after he retired, he decided to give back to students in underrepresented communities by teaching them engineering principles in preparation for college. He once told me that he believed that one of the main reasons there is a humiliating low population of minorities and women in the STEM fields, particularly engineering, is that some children did not receive the same amount of exposure and knowledge of STEM as others. So, he made it one of his goals to provide that exposure and support to his students, and he did exactly that for me and many of my cohort. Starting from my first class with Mr. Bass my freshmen year to my last class with him my junior year, he made sure I knew he expected amazing and consistent polished work and determination from me. He cared about my success and growth as a STEM student, and it showed clearly through his actions and words. Having that type of support and resource readily available allowed me to seek more information about engineering and the possibilities of pursuing a career in the engineering field. I have had the privilege of having amazing, encouraging and determined teachers throughout my academic career, but Mr. Bass and his approach was both unique and highly effective. Mr. Bass set high expectations, and expected his students to not only clear the obstacles, but to do so with plenty of clearance and poise. He expected us to not only grasp the lessons he taught, but to apply it and connect them in a way to address common problems. One of his famous methods was to introduce projects through role playing. For example, our major project my junior year of high school was to create 3D models of improved designs for a community garden in a neighborhood near our school that is in one of Chicago’s many urban “food deserts.” He gave us the opportunity to practice the concepts we were learning in class such as using the design process, creating 3D models through CAD software, and creating proposals on real situations. This method of his was stressful and demanding at times, but I appreciated it very much. It showed me how much change and good I could bring into my own community by using engineering to solve problems and prevent the development of other problems. I am very fortunate to have teachers and mentors such as Mr. Bass in my corner. As I continue with college, it becomes clear how important having strong support systems is to succeeding and handling the stress and confusion that accompanies starting college and other new stages of life. I connect most of my success and ability to adjust to my new environment to my relationship with people such as Mr. Bass. I strongly believe that every child should have a strong support system behind them for whenever they need someone to help and guide them.
Suliyat Olagbenro graduated from Lindblom Math & Science Academy in Chicago, Illinois in 2016. She is currently a freshman at the University of Michigan studying bio-medical engineering.

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