Using sports to teach Flintstones science: Meet the 24-year-old behind STEMletics

FLINT, Michigan – It all started with Kettering student Jonathan Blanchard doing what lots of college students do. 

“The idea came from playing NBA 2K14 in my dorm room,” said Blanchard, 24, a graduate of the International Academy of Flint and senior at Kettering University. 

After playing, he would look at the game stats to see how efficient he was. He could clearly see the connection to his studies. He used his math and skills to figure out ways to be better at basketball. He had a sudden realization that athletics could become a powerful tool to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 

And, STEMletics was born—tapping into athletic enthusiasm, limitless creativity, and business dreams. 

“I changed my major to business from engineering. The whole point of that was because I finally found my passion, which is education and giving back to the youth,” Blanchard said. “I truly do believe the youth are the future and if you can touch at least one other person from the next generation it will have a domino effect.

STEMletics caters to students in third through eighth grades and uses skills often taught high school math, algebra, geometry, calculus, and trigonometry. The program launched in January 2015 and operated summer camps in 2016 and 2017. 

Inspired by their love of basketball, students participating in STEMletics design a new sports invention—and developing this invention will tap into skills taught through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

For instance, one invention would create technology to put a sensor in a basketball or on a basketball hoop as well as each player’s shoe. This sensor would record every stat. 

“In the NBA, everything is becoming more analytical and statistical,” said Blanchard. 

Blanchard is trying to get coaches and students to think more analytically about the game and to think about more than just playing basketball. It is about creating an environment for students to think about all their NBA opportunities—coaching, analytics, statistics, and journalism. 

There was also a STEMletics SOUP after the camp for students to present their invention and compete for a $270 prize that would help build a prototype or model.
 
Then, STEMletics will provide resources—including access to patent attorneys and venture capitalists—to try to launch their product and get their invention out on the market. 

“It is a pretty unique process,” said Blanchard, who is set to graduate from Kettering in 2018. 

Blanchard dreams of expanding STEMletics beyond Michigan and of building community facilities to host after school programs, summer camps, and have open gyms. 

Within the next year or so, STEMletics will reach out for more funding so they can expand to other sports including baseball, football, soccer, track, and volleyball.

If you are interested in the STEMletics program, please visit: www.stemletics.com

Read more articles by Erin Coney.

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