Newark, NJ–Sen. Cory Booker joined incumbent Mayor Ras. J Baraka a day before the city’s mayoral election to celebrate a state-of-the art lab built to provide Newark students with the tools necessary to gain STEM (science, engineering and mathematics) education opportunities in the class and motivate them towards careers within the growing industry.

Students 2 Science, Inc. (S2S) is responsible for the S2S Technology Center located at 765 Broad Street in Newark. The facility is a 10,000 square foot, authentic, commercial grade lab equipped with $4 million in scientific equipment. S2S is a non-profit organization, which operates through philanthropy, corporate donations, volunteer scientists and mentors.

S2S Newark Technology Center contains six working analytical laboratories and two virtual lab studios equipped with hybrid communications platforms. The goal is to offer STEM learning to all Newark students in grades 5-12.

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There is the Improving Students Affinity and Aptitude for Careers in STEM program which provides middle and high school students with on site, real world STEM instruction led by volunteer professional scientists. There is also the virtual lab or V-lab program and a teacher development component as well.

Baraka said that Booker’s elbow grease was needed to begin this private public partnership in Newark noting there are more STEM labs and readily available resources in many suburban municipalities, he said.

“Now we have the ability to mitigate or destroy this problem,” Baraka said.

“It marks yet another sign of new experiences for all students in Newark,” said interim Superintendent Robert Gregory, adding that instead of “pockets of change” Newark schools now can “become pillars of change” within the community. “The city of Newark is on the rise. The renaissance we’ve heard about is here. So our schools have to change. So [students] have a seat at the table we call freedom.”   

Many toured the labs Monday and watched as students conducted experiments including how to tell what over the counter medication is made of and how to tell if it is real.

Alexa Garcia, an 8th grader, told TAPinto Newark that learning about crystallization is what most excited her about the program because, “It is something new.” She said although she wasn’t sure of her future career path she would consider becoming a chemist.  

“When it comes to investing in the things that shape the future America is falling behind and falling behind dramatically,” said Booker, adding that students need to be able to compete when it comes to innovation and within the global marketplace and that it is frustrating to watch other countries outpace the U.S. in some ways.

“The frustrating thing is those countries know that you don’t only need to invest in science but they also know you need to invest in young people. In a global knowledge-based society in the new modern era is not oil, gas and coal. The most valuable resource we have on planet earth is the genius of our children.”

Panasonic presented a $1.5 million check for use in the program in Newark on Monday. Other corporations including PSE&G take part in contributing to S2S.

Larry Fox, Co-Founder and Board Member of S2S said the program could evolve over time to include afterschool clubs and summer camps or weekend programs. Now there are three full time staffers and to be able to operate as hoped for there would need to be 13, which S2S members say they can move forward on thanks to the commitment from Panasonic.

“This is an extraordinary project because it is helping our young people get access to science, technology, innovation, the research really to start training them for the opportunities and jobs of the future,” Booker told TAPinto Newark. “This is really the best of what of Newark is about. All of us pitching in to do for our children to elevate our kids.”

Maurice Minott a 10th grader who wants to be a nano technician said he was fascinated to see a machine that burns as hot as the surface of the sun.

“I am all about evolution and the future,” he said, adding he truly believes he will change nanotechnology. “I want to transform it into something people have never seen.”