Diversity & Inclusion
Competitions / Education / STEM

60+ high schoolers competing in year-long STEM challenge

The Philadelphia Engineering Math Challenge got its start at Boys' Latin, where Trey Smith advises a group of students that make up a junior chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Legislative Hall in Dover. (Image from Wikicommons)

Using their knowledge of angles, the high schoolers had to rearrange mirrors to make a laser hit a specific point. Meanwhile, the judges walked around with laser pointers, testing the contraptions.

It was just one component of the first citywide Philadelphia Engineering Math Challenge held at Drexel this November. Organized by Trey Smith, chair of the science department at Boys’ Latin Charter School, and educators from Drexel University’s Math Forum and the Philadelphia Education Fund’s Math + Science Coalition, the competition challenged more than 60 students from eight public schools to use their STEM skills, according to a release.

The challenge will return on January 29, March 19, and June 4. There’s still space for more schools to sign up. Email jsmith AT boyslatin.org


Students at Boys’ Latin inspired the Philadelphia Engineering and Math Challenge.

The EMC got its start at Boys’ Latin, where Smith advises a group of students that make up a junior chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. The chapter has traveled to local and national math competitions, as well as organized a math quiz bowl for nine high schools last spring, Smith said. Smith won $2,500 to launch the citywide EMC in this fall’s SEED education microgrant program.

Each challenge will include:

  • a math quiz bowl
  • an engineering and design challenge (in the first challenge, it was the aforementioned laser/mirror task)
  • a “Three Act Math Task” video challenge that asks students to use math to solve real-world problems
  • a written solution to the Math Forum’s problem of the week

In the first challenge, participating schools were:

  • Academy at Palumbo
  • Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia
  • G. W. Carver High School for Engineering and Science
  • Hill-Freedman World Academy
  • Olney Charter High School
  • George Washington High School
  • F. A. Bregy Elementary School
  • Universal Audenried Charter High School.
Companies: Hill-Freedman World Academy / Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School / Drexel University / Math + Science Coalition

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