Eighth Grader Finds Superpowers Through STEM Experience

For Tony, a neurodiverse eighth grader at Sevilla West Elementary School, the start of classes couldn’t come soon enough.

“Can I have a chassis? I think this year I want to build a limo,” he eagerly asked Sevilla West STEM educator Mia DeLaRosa as he prepared for the SAE A World In Motion® (AWIM®) Motorized Toy Car Challenge.

Although the fall semester was just getting underway, he already had plans for his eighth-grade build which means he’d been thinking about it all summer, if not longer.

Last year, Tony participated in the AWIM Gravity Cruiser Challenge where he quickly decided to modify his design—adding a motor to the axle to make his car go really fast.

From that initial spark, he asked his mom if he could join the Sevilla West competitive engineering team. Because of his autism he preferred to work alone, yet within moments of participating in his first engineering design challenge, he won the entire competition!

“Kids that society puts on the fringes actually have super powers! I want every student to feel that excitement about the engineering experience even if they don’t see themselves as an engineer,” explained DeLaRosa.

Thanks to donors like you, schools like Sevilla West Elementary are able to offer SAE’s award-winning AWIM STEM education program for students in multiple grades—with each hands-on classroom challenge building on what they learned the year before. By the time they leave for summer break, they’re already looking forward to their next AWIM experience.

Sevilla West hopes to reach every student on campus, expanding the number of AWIM offerings beyond JetToy, Gravity Cruiser, and Motorized Toy Car. College students from Grand Canyon University provide invaluable mentorship as classroom volunteers with all AWIM challenges through SAE’s LearnTwice program, which they have been participating in since 2018.

“It’s really cool to see kids having a chance to be successful maybe for the first time that day or the first time that week. They have so much life happening but they get to be a kid and express their creativity and innovation,” DeLaRosa added.

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With your support, we can help more students like Tony build brighter futures by providing access to life-changing STEM education.

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