Three-Way Partnership Brings STEAM Learning to Underserved Youth in San Diego


UC San Diego Extension, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and the Elementary Institute of Science have partnered to launch two new programs in video game programming and robotics to help enrich education for students in grades 8–12 in one of San Diego’s most underserved communities, the Diamond District. The partnership aims to make STEAM curriculum—science, technology, engineering, arts, and math—more accessible to everyone.

“UC San Diego Extension has the framework, Scripps Institution of Oceanography is providing the expertise, and the Elementary Institute of Science has the students and facilities to launch these new programs,” said Ed Abeyta, assistant dean for community engagement at UC San Diego Extension. “Without all three partners, we simply wouldn’t be able to offer this exciting opportunity.”

The robotics and video gaming programs both begin on Friday, May 8 and run for two hours a week for eight weeks. Students will have the chance to design and build their own projects using tools and resources provided by the Elementary Institute of Science. A grant from Las Patronas to Scripps Oceanography will provide all the students’ robotics kits. Each course is full with 15 students and there are waitlists for each one and all participating students have been awarded scholarships so they can attend. Feeder schools include Morse High School, Lincoln High School, and Gompers Preparatory Academy.

“It’s one thing to provide services but it’s another to break down the barriers to participation—it’s an enormous part of the puzzle and partners like this help us do that,” said Patsy Tomlin, acting executive director at the Elementary Institute of Science. “These courses will open the door to a world of opportunity for our students and show them why their high school math and science classes are so relevant. The UC San Diego Extension classes will spark enthusiasm and build confidence.”

The courses will be taught by experts in each field, including professors, professionals, and grad students. They are not graded so the students are free to engage with their instructors without the limits of a rigid curriculum, and vice versa.

“We want to engage with more students in science in ways that ignite their passion,” said Debi Kilb, seismologist and director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography Games. “The idea is to catch the interest of kids who could be brilliant scientists, but who might be into other things—we do that by incorporating the arts and creative projects as well as a strong foundation in science, math, and technology.”

Sign Up For
Explorations Now

explorations now is the free award-winning digital science magazine from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Join subscribers from around the world and keep up on our cutting-edge research.