Associates Support Young Men of Color in STEM

Sitting at a red light in traffic isn’t fun. But thanks to Honda, a few young men from Columbus City Schools may view the experience differently.

Honda took part in the Young Men of Color in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Careers event at COSI in Columbus, OH for the fourth year, bringing a coding exercise that let students do programming for a traffic light.

Honda was one of a few companies that led activities for 200 Columbus City School boys in grades six through eight at the event organized by Columbus State Community College. Working with Python programming language, seven Honda associates led students through four coding challenges.

Adam Kendell, IT Services, Honda North America (HNA), built the microprocessors for students with $10 processors and hooked them up to red, green and yellow lights. “I programmed it, broke it and had the students fix it,” he said.

Students got a primer on the code before tackling the problem. With four different challenges, Kendell said most students solved the problems with a little time to spare. “I’ll have to make the challenges a little harder next time,” he admitted.

Honda’s goal in participating in the Young Men of Color in STEM Careers event is partially to challenge, but mostly to inspire. “I’ve been programming since I was five,” Kendell said. “I wrote my first program in first grade and it became a career for me. I want to give these kids an opportunity to fiddle with programming. If they like it, it could become a career for them. Honda needs software engineers in order to be competitive in core areas like autonomous vehicles and advanced manufacturing.”

Honda has long participated in activities like this to inspire students to go into the automotive field. Other efforts include the EPIC initiative Honda is undertaking with steps to inspire middle school students, educate high school students and train adults. Scot McLemore, Talent Acquisition, HNA, said the Young Men of Color event can leave an impression on students that could inspire their future. “Some kids don’t take to it, but you do see other kids getting excited and saying things like, ‘I want to do something like this,’” he said. “It is really satisfying to see kids get engaged.”

Kendell said the activity did just that and he witnessed many aha moments. “One kid said to me, ‘I have a programming class at school, but this is better,’” he said. “The kids really like to see the program change something in the real world.”

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