HIGHLIGHTING HAPPINESS: An extraordinary path to a STEM career

By: Andrew Campanella



Students at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science took home the First Place Grand Award in the 2019 D.C. STEM Fair.


by Andrew Campanella with Savanna Buckner

Syiion Robinson and Kimani Johnson don’t think middle school is too young to be planning for their futures or accomplishing extraordinary things.

That is why they competed in the D.C. STEM Fair in March.

These Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science students did not just compete. Up against more than 150 top STEM students in the District of Columbia, Robinson’s team won the First Place Grand Award! The winning project was called Rx3 and focused on ways to use robots to reduce the impact of humans on the environment.

For Syiion and Kimani, competing in a STEM Fair is a natural extension of their own interests. It also helps them with what they learn at the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science, which is referred to as (MS)2, or MS squared.

Developed by educators at Howard University, (MS)2 was designed as a middle school that would serve as a pipeline for STEM careers. It is the only charter school in America built on the campus of an Historically Black College or University (HBCU). And the school is making a positive difference.

Syiion Robinson’s journey to (MS)2 began in 5th grade, when his teachers helped him look for a middle school that would allow him to focus on his strengths in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.

Syiion, who wants to be an engineer, described how (MS)2’s program nudges students toward a STEM career.

“In sixth grade, you’re getting to work with Lego build,” he said. “Moving onto the seventh grade you start to get into coding, and finally in eighth grade you get into actually building and designing your own projects.”

Legos, coding, and design? No wonder Robinson describes the curriculum at (MS)2 as “spicy.”

After their big win at the D.C. STEM Fair, the next step for Robinson’s (MS)2 team will be a national competition!

“We are looking forward to seeing many other projects and hoping that we can learn something new from everyone and they can learn something new from us,” said Robinson.

Kimani Johnson also has clear goals for her future.

She is working toward a career as a statistical scientist and following in the footsteps of her older sisters and mother, all of whom attended (MS)2.  According to Kimani, a desire to understand differences in human behavior led her to STEM.

“I used to watch a lot of TV shows about reality and see how some people are treated differently than other people,” she said.

Kimani also told me that (MS)2 helped her realize that she could use statistics to measure the impact that different habitats and environmental forces have on people and animals.  

She added that the school’s hands-on experiences also make her “very happy” to attend (MS)2, because “we go to the chem lab and do projects with the college students here and we also do STEM related field trips.”

(MS)2’s Head of School Kathryn Procope couldn’t be happier for Robinson and Johnson.

“I feel incredibly proud of the young people,” she said. “Syiion and Kimani have done such a phenomenal job, and what they did was their own design. Just showing their scientific brains makes me really proud and excited to have them represent our school.”

As for me, I cannot think of a happier way to celebrate student success. MS2 clearly has the right formula, calculation, and equation (puns intended) for a great STEM school environment.


Read more: 5 Questions for Kathryn Procope, Head of School at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science


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