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SISTEM one-on-one with Jason Coleman,co-Founder & Executive Director of Project SYNCERE:" Chicago's own: making a difference in STEM education by providing innovative science and technology school programs".

Jason Colemnan

Jason Coleman is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of Project SYNCERE, an educational not-for-profit organization dedicated to exposing underrepresented students to careers in the STEM (Science, Math, Engineering and Technology) fields. After graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he worked in the aerospace industry for 3 years at BAE SYSTEMS, where he designed and developed flight control systems for military and commercial aircrafts. He was later employed with Motorola Mobility for 5 years, where he developed the mechanical layouts for the latest cellular phones. During his tenure in corporate America, he noticed the dismal amount of minorities and women in the fields of engineering and decided a change was necessary. In 2008, he co-founded Project SYNCERE in an effort to bring about a change within the STEM fields. As a product of the Chicago Public School system, it was important for him to ensure access to quality programs was available to inner city youth. Project SYNCERE has since served over 6,000 CPS and Charter School students since its launch, helping to increase students’ interest in STEM and improve their overall understanding of engineering. In his spare time, Jason volunteers as a Community Panel Member with the Community Justice for Youth Institute, which facilitates a juvenile court diversion model based on principles of restorative justice and sits on the Advisory Board for the Tinkering Lab at the Chicago Children’s Museum. Jason has been the recipient of numerous awards for his efforts in the community and has spoken on numerous panels about Strategies and Equity in STEM Education.

Q: Please tell us about Project SYNCERE, its creation, services, and programs.


Coleman: Project SYNCERE (Supporting Youth's Needs with Core Engineering Research Experiments) is a Chicago based non-profit organization, whose mission is to increase the number of minority, female, and under-served students who pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Project SYNCERE provides a curriculum that integrates STEM into students’ classroom activities through the use of project-based learning principles. Project SYNCERE's staff assist and coach students in scientific inquiry, directing them to deeper levels of understanding. These actions have helped students by raising their test scores, improving their critical thinking and problem solving skills and increasing their overall enthusiasm for school. Students work in teams to utilize their knowledge and skills to solve real world problems. The goal is to produce successful self-directed learners who are equipped to excel in the global market. Project SYNCERE is the dream of three African American men, who at an early age learned the power of education and technology. While not being satisfied with the amount of diversification in their fields of engineering and financial management, they decided to leave Corporate America to start an organization that encouraged students to embrace the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. In 2009, Project SYNCERE (PS) was officially launched and has since been able to serve more than 7,000 students in more than 50 schools throughout Chicago. Through the implementation of our innovative curriculum and our passion for inspiring the youth, our programs have become a staple in many Chicago public schools and a catalyst for changing the way STEM is viewed and taught throughout Chicago.

Q: Can you elaborate on two specific Project SYNCERE's school programs involving: (1) the creation of wearable electronics and (2) the design and development of a prosthetic arm?

Coleman: The wearable electronics project, teaches students about electrical engineering and computer science while allowing them to be creative and entrepreneurial. Wearable electronics is the fusion of technology and fashion, which are favorites among our younger generation. In this project, students work in teams to create a new product and a sales pitch for their ultimate design. Many of the students find creative ways to integrate sound/music, lights and other technology such as Bluetooth into various accessories, such as gloves, book bags, shoes and coats. The prosthetic arm challenge is a bio-medical engineering project, which requires students to design a prosthetic arm, which meets specific design requirements. Students are first taught the science and engineering principles behind prosthetics and are then tasked with designing their own device. Each team must design and build the most efficient prosthetic arm, which meets set design specifications and budget constraints.

Q: Can you please share with us one or two student success stories in relation to Project SYNCERE’s programs?

Coleman: One of our past students Daniel was a freshman in HS when we first met him. He was a smart and talented students, but he also thought he was too cool for school. He was involved in gangs and headed down the wrong path. Daniel participated in our program for 3 years until he graduated. During this time, we were able to mentor Daniel and keep him engaged in school and in engineering. During his senior year in HS, Daniel also participated on our First Robotics Team, which took home 4th place in the regional competition. Our students were so excited about their victory and helped to propel them to want to pursue engineering at the collegiate level. I’m proud to say that Daniel is now a senior at Wartburg College majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Another one of our students Suliyat also came to our program her freshman year in high school. Suliyat is a very driven student who was interested in Bio-Medical Engineering. Suliyat has been able to further her interest in the fields, through the participation in our Saturday programs and our mentorship of her has helped push her to new heights. Suliyat recently participated in the Summer Engineering Program at MIT as is also the recipient of the BP Global Citizens of Tomorrow Scholarship. The BP Program has allowed Suliyat to study abroad in Brazil to complete her senior year of high school.

Q: What challenges and obstacles does Project SYNCERE currently face?

Coleman: Project SYNCERE is looking to secure long-term funding to expand our Out-of-School Time programs. Our OST programs are the most impactful for students as we are able to really leverage our partnerships with other organizations and universities to provide students with long-term strategic programs to help them become prepared for the challenges at the collegiate level.

Q: What are the critical steps educational policymakers should undertake to bridge the scientific and technological gap in America and to increase the number of African-Americans and Latinos in STEM studies and careers.

Coleman: Policy makers need to understand that preparation of our youth needs to start at an early age and that results won’t be immediate. We need to cultivate our youth and help them understand early on, the rewards that can be made from the investment in their own future. I think it is also critical that those who teach are students about STEM, have the background and education to do so properly. Too many of our educators in the STEM fields, don’t have the proper education or passion to make students truly understand the importance of them getting in the field. It is hard to teach and influence if it isn’t truly coming from the heart and students can sense this right away.

Q: Do you have any tips or advice for students aiming to pursue a career in STEM or STEM related fields such as medicine, business and economy?

Coleman: I believe that students need to participate in programs like ours early and often. The fields are so diverse and their exposure to these types of programs help them truly get a sense of what they like and don’t like. It also allows them to meet and speak with people who are in the fields as well as visit companies that they could potentially work for one day. The more exposure students have at an early age, the better prepared they will be in the future.



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