Edward McFadden, an engineer at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, N.C., spends a lot of his “free” time in the community promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.
A husband, and busy father of twins, Edward or “Mr. E” as known by many students in the local community, founded the STEM Career Path Project Inc. a few years ago to promote science, technology, engineering and math education by inspiring young minds through hands-on, interactive activities and workshops. His countless hours of community service have encouraged students from all walks of life to have a clearer understanding of math and its practical applications, possible careers in STEM related fields and how problem solving is critical to engineering.
We recently sat down with Mr. E to learn more about his organization, background and the impacts he has seen in the community through his work over the past few years.
Q. What shaped you as a child/teen to get into engineering?
I kind of stumbled into engineering. In high school, I was really good at math. I also spent a lot of my time working on car stereo systems and hooking up random electronics. Although I had fairly decent grades, my SAT scores were extremely low, which made it challenging to get into a good school. Nonetheless, I made it into college and, persuaded by my mom, decided to major in electrical engineering because of my love for math, electronics and car stereo systems. Not knowing much about the major, I assumed it would be a good fit because of my background.
Q. What made you start STEM Career Path Project Inc.?
As a teenager in high school, I can’t recall anyone ever coming to our school to speak about careers in engineering or other related fields for that matter. At the time, it seemed as if my school focused more on sports and grooming students into great athletes than on education. Several people from my high school played collegiate sports and ended up making it into the NFL. I knew I was different.
I started my nonprofit to give back to students that were in my shoes. Several children are excluded from gifted programs each year due to low test scores. A lot of students have talent and potential but are not good test takers; therefore, they are eliminated from these programs. For me, my low SAT test scores did not reflect who I was as a person. Several people believed I would not have been successful in college after looking at my SAT scores but, I made it through college with some pretty good grades.
My nonprofit is free of charge. I serve in my community because I’m passionate about it, it’s not about the money and it reflects in my work.
Q. When did you launch your organization?
I founded my organization in March 2012. My mentor helped with the naming of the organization.
Q. What types of groups has your organization been a part of?
I spend a lot of time in the community working with a variety of groups and schools to promote STEM education. I’ve had a continuous partnership with local education centers like Discovery Place, the Catawba Science Center and the EnergyExplorium at McGuire Nuclear Station, but I also offer one-on-one support to local schools and community colleges, YMCAs and Boy and Girls Clubs just to name a few.
Q. What types of activities do you do during group visits?
Everything I do is hands-on and interactive because it gets participants more involved and, for the most part, it makes them ask questions. Children (and adults) are naturally curious, so the activities my organization leads are based on problem solving and applying practical solutions to everyday occurrences.
For example, I currently have a monthly commitment with Cars Inspiring Youth and the St. James YMCA afterschool program.
At St. James, some of activities include programming robots and launching rockets.
Cars Inspiring Youth is a program based out of Charlotte, N.C., which offers young adults a second chance at life. The students enrolled in this program either dropped out of high school or made bad decisions after high school. Cars Inspiring Youth is an alternative educational program which provides participants with an opportunity to learn about vehicle repair and maintenance and ultimately use those skills to pursue a career in the automotive industry.
My organization’s role in this partnership has been to show students the engineering aspect of working on cars by teaching them about power, voltage, current and troubleshooting.
Q. What’s your goal for your organization?
One of my main goals is to continue developing strategies to narrow the educational gap between privileged and underprivileged kids.
Q. How many children do you think have been impacted by the work you do?
Since 2015, we have reached out to more than 3,000 students annually. Since the organization started in 2012, we've reached more than 7,500 students.