This summer 150 African-American and Latino boys from middle schools across San Bernardino are learning technology skills at Cal State San Bernardino as part of the Verizon Innovative Learning Camp.

One of 17 institutions nationwide chosen as a host site, it marks second straight year CSUSB, a Hispanic-Serving Institution, has been selected. It was the first CSU campus to hold a Verizon Innovative Learning Camp, and this summer is joined by Cal State Los Angeles.

CSUSB has already held two sessions, June 19-23 and July 10-14, with a third camp taking place July 17-21. Each session assembles 50 attendees. During the first camp, the MdBio Foundation worked with with Verizon and brought the Verizon Innovative Learning explorer lab to campus on June 22 for the middle schoolers.

The explorer lab is a shared immersive learning experience that combines movie-quality video, special effects, and hands-on educational gaming to create a learning environment that gets kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) — right in the school parking lot.

The students experienced a shared immersive learning experience of light, sound and video that took them to Mars onboard the explorer lab. Students watched a five-minute video about the solar system and human space exploration. They then were given tablet computers and presented with engineering challenges to design and maneuver their rovers over the Martian surface.

Later this month, eight boys from last year’s program will attend a special youth summit in San Francisco. For most of them, it will be the first time flying in an airplane. The youth summit will be aimed at inspiring attendees to be early adopters and leaders in emerging technological trends such as wearable technology, virtual reality, 3D printing and the Internet.

The Verizon Innovative Learning Camp, the first of its kind, exposes young male African-American and Latino students to technology, including coding and 3D printing, and provides valuable STEM and entrepreneurship skills.

The program also pairs participants with mentors for continued learning and support throughout the school year.  The Verizon Innovation Learning Camp is designed to open the eyes of young male students to the many future career opportunities these skills create.

During the course of the summer, the boys will have participated in technology workshops on campus, four to five days per week, for approximately four weeks, taught by university professors. The students will also meet with mentors throughout the school year.

Much attention has been paid to the importance of engaging girls in STEM, but very few are talking about the promise technology skills hold for young minority boys. Minority males are severely underrepresented in STEM fields and are less likely than Caucasian peers to graduate from high school on time and pursue college, according to a report “Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males.

In the first year of the Verizon Innovation Learning Camp, more than 580 products, including apps and 3D printed objects, were designed and created by students. An evaluation of the program also revealed that:

  • 100 percent of students increased mobile technology proficiency;
  • 75 percent increased interest in STEM subjects; and
  • 69 percent increased interest in STEM careers.

About the Verizon Foundation: The Verizon Foundation is focused on accelerating social change by using the company’s innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, healthcare and energy management.  Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon’s employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.8 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities.  For more information about Verizon’s philanthropic work, visit Verizon’s “Responsibility” web page; for regular updates, follow the foundation on Facebook at @VerizonFoundation, and Twitter at @VZFoundation.

About California State University, San Bernardino: Set in the foothills of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains, Cal State San Bernardino a preeminent center of intellectual and cultural activity in inland Southern California. For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit