STEM program helps change dirt bike riding culture, perception

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-22 11:22:26-04

It's a problem in Baltimore: people riding dirt bikes illegally on the street. But a new nonprofit is taking a unique approach to create a safer environment for everyone by teaching kids STEM using their love of dirt bikes. 

"Riding dirt bikes is my passion. I see them riding and then I was like I want to try that one day," 11-year-old Kamyia Jordan said. 

"I always thought one day that’s gonna be me on a dirt bike," 11-year-old Daron Harrell said. 

7th graders Jordan and Harrell grew up around dirt bikes nad started riding them at just 5 years old. But it's illegal and sometimes very dangerous in Baltimore. That's why Brittany Young founded the nonprofit B-360. She wanted to change the culture and perception of dirt biking in the city. 

"At 11 years old, Daron is seen as a criminal just because he does ride a dirt bike. So it’s how do we change peoples mindsets around who dirt bike riders were?" Young said. "We work with community members. We work with police. We work with dirt bike riders."

She uses their passion to develop a new one: STEM.

"He knew a lot about the mechanics of bikes and that’s how I identified OK this is something that’s engineering, just no one has ever told him that," Young said.

Young uses her expertise as a STEM Scholar graduate from Baltimore City Community College to hire and train older dirt bike riders as part of her nonprofit. Then, the new mentors teach younger riders things like coding, designing and 3D printing a dirt bike using resources from the BCCC robotics lab. 

"If they actually get to see what people learn riding them, then they will see it’s not harmful to them," Jordan said. 

She also teaches the important of safety, wearing a helmet and staying off the streets. 

"Not all people wear helmets. People just ride on the streets reckless and I wanted to get kids and other people out of the street from riding dirt bikes and getting hurt and getting chased by police," Harrell said. 

Young also got inspiration to start the nonprofit last year from her isolation the tech field. 

"Only 5% of all engineers are Black or Latino, so being in the industry, I was usually the only one of me," Young said.

Now her program encourages African American youth to pursue STEM careers.

"This is in our backyard. We have a robotics lab. We have a lot of great opportunities but I didn’t see a lot of us in these classrooms or these experiences," Young said. 

She's worked with over 2,200 students, from visiting schools to holding a STEM summer camp. It's helping kids like Daron who dream of being engineers. 

"I went from a little kid that didn’t really experience nothing to a kid that gets to learn everything that he wanted to be in life," Harrell said. 

She and her students won social innovator of the year at Light City after a pitch competition. Brittany was a fellow of the first US Red Bull Amaphiko Academy and recently won the global Echoing Green Fellowship, joining the ranks of the previous fellow Michelle Obama. She is going to use her monetary award to expand her nonprofit, hiring more mentors and reaching more kids.