SMASH has grown since 2004 from one site at UC Berkeley to four sites throughout the state. Another site is opening at the University of Chicago in 2013, and the program’s organizers are in discussions with 18 other campuses to expand nationally. The goal? Twenty-five sites by 2020.
The biggest limiting factor is funding. The program is expensive and the universities—even those with large endowments, such as Stanford—still charge the start-up non-profit full price for room and board. It’s the single, greatest line item in the SMASH budget.
SMASH has a rigorous and evolving curriculum, experiments with blended learning, including MySciHigh, which won first place at a recent Startup Weekend. The program also has a detailed operations manual for launching new sites. A STEM teacher training academy is also in its sights as the program explores how to scale its success.
When I visited SMASH at Stanford in July and talked to many of the participating students. They called the program “life-changing” and talked about how it made them determined to become and engineer or scientist.
Maria Castillo, a senior from Richmond High in California said the program inspired her to become an engineer so she could help solve the energy crisis. SMASH, she said, “inspired me to speak my opinions no matter what other people think.”
Hi Vo, a senior at Delmar High school in San Jose, gushed about how excited he had become about learning math and science because of the great scientists he met at Stanford. Daryle Alums, a student at KIPP King Collegiate in San Lorenzo, CA, said SMASH got him interested in computer science and that he had started a company with his friends.
I have little doubt that these students’ excitement and the sense of hope they developed is infectious. We just need thousands more like them returning to schools around the country to inspire the others.
The author is a Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance fellow at Stanford University.
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