Malcolm X Shabazz High School unveils Engineering Academy

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NEWARK, NJ — Old friends and familiar faces came home on Wednesday, Dec. 4, as Malcolm X Shabazz High School alumni were welcomed back as the Newark Board of Education, led by Superintendent Roger Leon, unveiled school’s new Engineering Academy.

The new program offers students an opportunity to apply the engineering design process and standards, along with math and science, to develop solutions to a variety of problems, documenting their trials and results throughout the process. In addition, students will use 3D modeling software and printers to create solutions to present to panels of engineers.

During the event, a new partnership was announced between Technology High School — the district’s magnet school — and New Jersey Institute of Technology, the higher academic partner, and the Stryker Corporation, an industry partner. This three-way partnership will allow the new Engineering Academy to exist within Malcolm X Shabazz High School.

East Orange 5th Ward Councilman Mustafah Brent, an alumnus of the school, said he attended the unveiling to support Malcolm X Shabazz High School Principal Naseed Gifted.

“I’m here to support my good friend, Naseed Gifted,” Brent told the Record-Transcript at the event. “He opened up a STEM Academy portion of Malcolm X Shabazz High School. Phenomenal opportunity for our young people to get involved in STEM technology, which is becoming more and more of a wave into the future of employment, as well as exposure on an international basis.”

“Today’s event was phenomenal,” he continued. “I believe that we also had my former principal, Ms. Marian Bennett here, who set the trail for the current principal, Naseed Gifted, to do the job he’s doing. I think this is phenomenal. This affords our young people to gain access to science and technology, to fill the needs of a growing population of engineers moving on into the future.”

Gifted shed light on the new partnership.

“We’re looking to build the technology leaders of tomorrow,” he said. “Our event was about the future of how we’re going to look to shape the members of the Malcom X Shabazz community and then look for them to be able to solve the problems that may arise in the community and use the technology that we have here, to be able to come up with solutions and, hopefully, do some incredibly innovative things.”

“The new facility was in the $100,000 range, as far as the new equipment and all of the things that comes with that,” Gifted said. “We have a couple of partners who are involved. We have a technology partner, which is Stryker. We have a higher education partner, which is NJIT, and then we have a magnet school partner, which is Technology High School.

“So, with all of them, using their combined resources, we’re going to be able to do some phenomenal things here at Malcolm X Shabazz High School.”

The Engineering Academy was constructed during the summer months, and more has since been added. Gifted predicted it would be a real game changer at the high school.

“This is where the minds and our ideas are going to be changed and shaped into and be able to do all of the things that’s going to change the world,” he said.

New Jersey Institute of Technology President Joel Bloom said the new program is what local students need.

“What we are seeing here today is much of the future of the Newark public schools being led by the superintendent and Principal Naseed Gifted of Shabazz High School,” Bloom said at the unveiling. “The excitement of the students, the excitement of the teachers all around the STEM Academy, is irresistible, irreplaceable and will help the future generations get the necessary STEM education that we and they need.”

Bloom said he still has to work out some financial details.

“Just in talking about 3D printers, you can make your own, as you saw. They’re in the couple hundred-dollar range,” he said. “But to create the room, the lighting, the tables — that would probably be about a $15,000 to $20,000 commitment.”

According to Bloom, the Newark Board of Education paid for the facility and Stryker will be supplying equipment.

“We’re going to contribute some equipment,” he said. “I know Stryker is going to contribute some equipment. So, we continue to fit out the room for the students. Today’s presentation by the students just tells you, as high school students, how incredibly smart they are, how much they already know about technology, how ambitious they are and how hard they’re willing to work.”

Malcolm X Shabazz High School math teacher Patrick Murray gave some insight into his role at the school and the strides his STEM students are already making.

“We’re celebrating the Biogeochem Club and the opening of the Engineering Facility here at Malcolm X Shabazz High School,” Murray told the Record-Transcript during the event on Wednesday, Dec. 4. “I’m the biogeochemistry coach. The Biogeochemistry Club is a club that we run before school. Next week, we’re going to the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco, which is the largest gathering of scientists in the world; 24,000 scientists will appear there and our students will present their enzyme research. Eight students will be going there.

“The trip was largely funded by Roger Leon, who is the superintendent of Newark public schools. He graciously examined what we were doing and provided extra funds for us, because he saw the value of what we were doing. Part of our funding also came from a GoFundMe, where we bought our T-shirts, and we have a little bit of cash left over for food and transportation.

“It’s awesome. We’ve been going for the last few years. It’s well-celebrated and very few of the students that present there have actually published in the Frontiers of Microbiology or any type of a journal, which our kids have.”

Malcolm X Shabazz High School junior Jabez King, one of the few students involved in the Engineering Academy, also discussed his involvement with the program.

“I’m on the biogeochemistry team and the robotics team,” King told the Record-Transcript during the event. “I love it, to be honest. I actually have a lot of fun and it’s a fun experience. Next week, I’m going to San Francisco because of this,” he added.

Also leading the charge of student leaders for the Engineering Academy was Shabazz High School senior Aniya Travers.

“I was the lead scientist in the Malcolm X Shabazz biogeochemistry team,” Travers told the Record-Transcript at the event. “I was also presenting my engineering internship this past summer. I felt like I was on top of the world presenting in front of everyone who came for the unveiling. I felt like I can do anything I want to do, and I honestly feel like that every day. I just have to make sure that I keep going. I can’t stop.”

“I think today’s event was awesome,” Murray continued. “It’s a great broadening of the engineering and a combination of higher-level schools, such as NJIT and Bloomfield college, in addition to Stryker and other commercial organizations. It’s a great way to give the kids an opportunity to learn in high school about careers.”

Robert Cohen, Stryker Orthopedics’ vice president and chief technology officer, said the partnership is fantastic.

“We’re opening up a very exciting lab at Shabazz High School, focusing on STEM Academy and helping people in high school realize their dream to focus on science, engineering and math,” Cohen told the Record-Transcript at the event. “Today, a very exciting lab has opened up, to help facilitate that curriculum. People are excited and looking forward to seeing these students well into the future and having engineering jobs.”

“The faculty here is extraordinary,” he continued. “The commitment here to these students is exceptional. If we, as a company in the state of New Jersey, can help and assure that the curriculum is industry relevant and can help motivate these students on projects that could help define their occupation in the future, we’re honored to do that.”

Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman.