New program engineering better opportunities for inner city students

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Students in the inner city all too often lack the science, technology, engineering, and math education opportunities that students in more affluent schools around the metro receive. Now a new program called Kansas City Engineering Zone, or KC-EZ is changing that.

"I think they were lacking material, I kind of thought we were kind of abandoned for a little bit," said 17-year-old Devin Edwards, who attends Paseo Academy and dreams of being an astrophysicist.

He said the new facility has vast improvements from where he worked before.

"More programming… bigger computers," added Edwards.

"In the inner city they don't have large areas to work, space at all, you know, they're working in the hallway often," Laura Bauer said, the KC-EZ manager, and an engineer herself.

"There is so much untapped potential with kids in the area who maybe just maybe haven't considered that as a field at all," Bauer added.

Like Julia Kenneally, who attends Lincoln College Prep.

"It's a whole new experience for me that I never really thought I'd be into," said Kenneally, "This space would be a really good way to get more people interested in science, math, engineering, and technology."

Laura Loyacono, the Executive Director of KC STEM Alliance, says this place is designed to be a resource for the region in science, technology, engineering, and math.

"The resources from the high schools are lacking in pre-engineering and industrial technology," Loyacono said.

Loyacono says many schools have STEM or robotics programs, but many of the facilities have limitations.

"What is uneven is the physical space and the tools and the machinery as well as access to mentors in the urban core," said Loyacono.

The idea of this KC-EZ program is to show all students what they're capable of.

"They have the aptitude, they have the intellectual capability, and the curiosity to be engineers, but what they don't have are role models, exposure, and access to really great machinery and tools," said Loyacono.

The goal for the future is to include more schools around the metro to take advantage of this facility.

Many of these students say these subjects are also viewed as being geared toward males, but Lincoln Prep actually has slightly more females than males on their Robotics team, something unusual in this area and globally.