On a fall night at James McHenry Recreation Center last year, Brittany Young led a group of young people mixing polymers. Then, they heard from well-known dirt bike rider Chino Braxton about his career and some safety tips.
The dual approach provided a window into how Young built B-360. The organization is engaging students in lessons that provide an intro to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which can be key to future jobs. Yet it's doing so in a uniquely Baltimore way, harnessing the dirt bike culture that remains wildly popular.
An engineer who graduated from Poly, Young saw the popularity of dirt bikes firsthand growing up in West Baltimore. But beyond the wows that the wheelies inspire, she saw that the fascination extended to how the dirt bikes work. And in the latter, she found plenty of engineering lessons that can help connect technical topics to something youth already love.
As Young launched the program, she got support from the city's entrepreneurs who are building ventures to create social change, like Baltimore Corps' Elevation Awards, the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab and Red Bull Amaphiko Academy. On a national stage, she was selected for a highly competitive Echoing Green fellowship.
Along with bringing a new approach that can inspire students who wouldn't have previously considered an engineering career, the program is also shaping perception in fields where black people are still underrepresented.
"It's become my mission to better get people and organizations ready for STEM students of color," she told Technical.ly Baltimore in a recent interview.