BPL Wins $95,000 Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham Grant to Expand Teen Engineering to More Branches

Dr. Abidin Yildirim, director of outreach and STEM Coordinator for the UAB School
of Engineering, and college mentors work with teens on a structured STEM activity at the 
Central Library.

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) has received a $95,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to expand Teens Engineer BHM, a pilot afterschool program that partners engineering school mentors from UAB with teens at three Birmingham city libraries: Central, Southside, and Woodlawn. The grant will be used to expand the program from three to five libraries over the next two years.

The Community Foundation announced the grant and other recipients on May 26 at the link below: http://www.cfbham.org/for-nonprofits/recent-grants/.

Teens Engineer Birmingham, a UAB School of Engineering outreach effort through the Birmingham Public Library, began as a pilot program at the Central Library in 2015. Last year, it was expanded to Southside and Woodlawn Branch Libraries after BPL won a $50,000 2015 Community Impact Grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund.

Mentors from the UAB School of Engineering, led by Department Outreach Coordinator and STEM Instructor Dr. Abidin Yildirim, provide weekly STEM-based robotics programming for afterschool students at the Central, Woodlawn and Southside Libraries. Student participants come from home schools as well as Phillips Academy, Woodlawn, and Ramsay high schools in Birmingham, all within walking distance of the libraries. 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.

“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.”

Lance Simpson at a 2015 Makey Makey Tech Workshop at the Avondale Regional Branch
Library. See photos of Teens Engineer BHM programs at BPL Flickr.

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.”

When the UAB Benevolent Fund announced BPL as the recipient of its $50,000 grant a year ago, Yildirim said it can open opportunities for the Birmingham teen participants in engineering and other STEM programs. Read more about the UAB grant at the link below: http://www.uab.edu/news/service/item/6871-uab-and-birmingham-public-library-joint-program-wins-award-to-help-aspiring-teen-engineers.