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When Debra Coleman, 2015 BEYA winner for Community Service, isn’t leading her team to ensure electrical requirements are met for passenger seats, she is highly visible as a driver of science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) initiatives.

Her pride and joy are kids in science and engineering.

Debra arrived at Boeing to learn the basics of airplane wiring, rising to lead senior electrical systems engineer for the 737 Electrical Seat organization within the Aircraft Interiors group at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Now she is a senior electrical systems engineer at The Boeing Company.

In October 2010, she founded Kids in Science and Engineering (KISE) at Kimball Elementary School in Seattle to introduce K-5th-grade students to math, science and engineering principles. KISE includes summer school and calls on parental involvement.

KISE started with 12 girls, and now includes boys. It partnered with Powerful Schools for the 2012-13 school year to bring KISE to three additional elementary schools. It reaches 22 children in the weekly after-school program and 12 students in the Saturday program. Debra funded KISE in its first year and has since raised $22,243 for it.

KISE seeks to create a pipeline of students prepared to enter STEM fields by emphasizing the importance of math and science and preparing for college, based on the philosophy that preparation must start early.

KISE kids meet weekly to learn the principles of electrical, mechanical, chemical, civil, aeronautical, environmental, and computer engineering. Each session features hands-on experiments to demonstrate the principles students learned.

KISE students come from diverse backgrounds and speak many languages – a truly global community, where they learn critical thinking skills to solve problems together. Students are exposed to hands-on activities, field trips to see engineering in action, guest engineering speakers, contests, homework, and summer school.

During lab sessions, students follow the KISE Scientific Method to create a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, write lab results and give presentations. Students are given tests to assess their standing in math and science.

Two of the biggest field trips have been to The Computer Museum in Seattle, where students learned about computers past and present and concluded their tour with a scavenger hunt; and the University of Washington where professors and graduate students took kids to five robotics labs and had them conduct experiments.

KISE has a plan in place to track existing students and monitor if they choose STEM classes in 6th-12th grades as well as major in a STEM field in college.


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