Partnership with Phoenix Indian Center Collaborates on STEM Education for Native American Youth

Achievement date: 

The NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG), headquartered at Arizona State University, partnered with the Phoenix Indian Center to create programs for Native American youth that explore the connections between their culture and native plants, animals, soil, and nature. The programs introduce students to STEM topics.


Bothcentersshare the goal of increasing participation of under-represented communities in STEM careers, and higher education. CBBG and the Phoenix Indian Center are creating culturally-based, CBBG-oriented materials, and encourage more Native Americans to become involved in engineering and other STEM fields through CBBG summer programs for students and teachers.


A group of 15 Native American high school students from the Phoenix Indian Center’s Youth College and Career Readiness Program visited the CBBG labs on the ASU Tempe campus in March 2016. CBBG staff and PhDs Claudia Zapata, Otakuye Conroy-Ben, and Nassser Hamdan, and ASU students Miriam Woolley and Angel Gutierrez shared stories of their paths to studying engineering, and encouraged the youth to pursue further studies and research.

In July 2016 at the CBBG, ASU Assistant Professor Otakuye Conroy-Ben spoke with 115 high school students from the Phoenix Indian Center Summer Academy about the overlap between Native American culture and science. He answered questions ranging from “What tribe are you?” to “Why did you choose this job?” to “What classes should I take to prepare for this career?” The students also toured several CBBG labs.

Several of students applied for the Young Scholars program and one of them, Dion Shurley, spent five weeks in Summer 2016 working as a Young Scholar in a CBBG lab.