Member Spotlight Interview: Shawn Patel

For this blog I reached out to Shawn Patel, a member of Project Scifi, and asked him a few questions pertaining to the organization. The next couple blogs will follow a similar format so that different perspectives regarding anything to do with Project SCIFI or why it exists can be shared. For more information, please visit our website at projectscifi.org and be sure to follow us on social media! Enjoy the article.

Michael: Why did you join Project Scifi?

Shawn: I went to a high school that was very underfunded. My experience with the STEM program at my high school was not pleasant. Those who struggled in the programs feared going to class and taking exams. There were limited resources available to help engage students who struggled in science courses. I believe this discouraged many students from pursuing STEM as their main career choice. I joined project SCIFI with hope that one day this organization might be able to help talented kids reach their potential and make America more competitive in the global STEM field.

Michael: Out of all the resources Project Scifi provides classrooms (lab coats, career books, science experiments, etc.) what resource appeals most to you and why?

Shawn: Project Scifi gives underprivileged schools the resources they need to pursue STEM as a career choice. The resource that appeals most to me is the science experiment protocol that can be used to help facilitate interesting, classroom appropriate experiments. This allows a student to actually see science taking place in front of them and will hopefully motivate them to think about the bigger picture. Many students become discouraged from pursuing STEM because they see no purpose to the seemingly trivial material taught in class. Only through seeing the power of what is taught in class, will they be able to appreciate the magnitude of what they’re learning. I believe this hands on experience we provide is the most valuable in the sense that it gives students insight into the power of what they’re learning in their classes. A lack of hands on experience and learning is what made my experience with learning science in high school intolerable. I was never shown the purpose to why I was learning something.  

Michael: What is unique about Project Scifi?

Shawn: I think that what makes Project Scifi unique is the diversity of its members. We all come from different upbringings as well as fields of study. Thus, we are better at understanding many of the disparities within our education system allowing us to deal with them more effectively.

Michael: What do you think are some barriers that are preventing underprivileged students from pursuing STEM careers?

Shawn: I think the biggest barrier that prevents underprivileged students from pursuing STEM is lack of academic support. STEM is the most challenging field of study to pursue and because of this only those who have the proper tutoring and guidance are able to succeed. Many underprivileged public schools don’t have the means to provide this. Quality tutoring and guidance not only helps students succeed in their class, but it also gives them the tools that they can use to succeed in future STEM courses and potentially deter them from choosing a less challenging field.