Mississippi middle school students are experiencing a world beyond their classrooms. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports a record making pilot is helping to increase the number of black males pursuing careers in technology.
These 6-8 grade middle school boys are competing to see who can navigate drones through an obstacle course the fastest. Drones, coding and 3D printing are some activities Captain Barrington Irving is using to introduce black males to STEM; science, technology, engineering and math. Irving was the first and youngest black man to fly solo around the world in 2007 at the age of 23. Now at 34, he is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, who travels the world conducting expeditions and research. He flew his team to Jackson State University to promote careers in STEM at the Minority Males Makers Program sponsored by Verizon.
"My whole goal in showing kids all these different expeditions we do in different parts of the world is honestly to change mindsets. We don't have more minorities in these fields, we don't have more women in these fields quite simply because they're not exposed to these things," said Irving.
The aeronautical scientist says a chance meeting with a black pilot and a high school teacher led him to pursue aviation instead of accepting a football scholarship. He says STEM took him beyond his Miami home.
"I didn't grow up in the best neighborhoods and I felt that this really provided a way for me to see the world, for me to experience things and I think a lot of our young people will connect with that," said Irving.
Twelve-year old Akinzee Bell of Jackson, a 7th grader, is having a great time.
"I'm just real glad because I made new friends and we're doing all these electronic devices, drones and it's really cool how we're doing all these different things," said Bell.
All of Captain Irvings expeditions are available as lessons for educators at Flyingclassroom.com.