Justin Shaifer is a STEM revolutionary and educator.
Shaifer earned a full scholarship from NASA and NOAA to attend Hampton University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in marine and environmental science. He is currently working toward a doctorate in science education at Columbia University.
The Chicago native is also the founder of Fascinate Inc., a nonprofit organization that partners with companies to excite underrepresented students about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
He recently announced his new project — the “Live STEM Cartoon Show!” — for students from first grade to eighth grade.
Rolling out spoke with Shaifer about his introduction to science and technology and the incredible work he is doing.
Tell us how you got your start in STEM?
I was raised by a single parent, and I didn’t know that my grandfather on my father’s side was an engineer. I came across my grandfather’s patent that he held for an early circuit in the VCR. What that did was it [made me realize] this is in my blood, my genes, I can build stuff, I can be one of these people.
You received a full-ride scholarship from NASA. Why did you choose to attend to an HBCU?
I remember not being the best student or the highest achieving kid and sometimes I blamed that on where I was from or because I had a single mom. When I went to an HBCU, I found real role models that were actually in these spaces that had similar backgrounds to mine that had achieved what I perceived to be Black excellence. Going to an HBCU created a competitively collaborative environment for me with Black people. I had no excuses but to point the finger at myself and say it’s up to me to be dope.
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