Spelman Sets Pace In Sciences

White House office of science and technology director John Holdren meets the SpelBots.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE
Audio version of this story here.

The U.S. needs more engineers and scientists, according to the White House. So it sent its director of science and technology to Atlanta’s Spelman College Wednesday to get some ideas.Audio version.

Programming robots is just part of what the SpelBots do. The Spelman robotics team also conducts research and does community outreach.

“We’ve been using the robots to do things like outreach to children, students at middle schools, just kind of introducing robotics to them, as well as competing,” says senior Daria Jordan.

Spelman also boasts labs that blend biology (think cells and microscopes) with technology (think high-tech lenses and laser printers).  

Spelman and Bennett College in North Carolina are responsible for producing 50% of all African-American female PhDs. in the sciences. That’s significant because women and minorities are under-represented in science fields. 

The White House wants that to change. As the SpelBots worked with Spice the robot, White House representative John Holdren said he hopes more schools will adopt Spelman’s hands-on approach.

“If you let kids get their hands on equipment and do interesting things, they’re going to learn much faster, and they’re going to become the scientists, the discoverers, the inventors, the entrepreneurs of the future,” he said.  

About one-third of Spelman’s student population majors in a field of science.