Culture

Oakland Teen Creates Nonprofit To Teach Kids Science

Oakland Teen Creates Nonprofit To Teach Kids Science

He's a scientist!

Ahmed Muhammad, a senior in high school, launched a nonprofit in March to give kids hands-on science experience. He used this experience in his college admissions essay and was recently admitted to Stanford University. He's now the first person in his family to attend college.

"It was a dream come true," Muhammad told CNN. "It still doesn't feel real."

The California native attends Oakland Technical taking college courses on top of his high school classes, playing point guard on the varsity basketball team, and running his nonprofit designing science kits.

Muhammad said the inspiration for the kits came from his family. While babysitting his niece and nephew, he decided to do a science experiment but was rebuffed by his nephew, who said he hated science.

"He literally loved everything, and then when I brought up science, he doubted himself; he didn't believe in himself anymore," Muhammad said.

But instead of giving up, Muhammad decided to show them how fun and exciting science could be with the right teacher.

"We went to the store together, and I had them pick out potatoes, and then I went to the hardware store to buy some copper nails, some galvanized nails, and some wire, and we made a battery out of it."

Following the shutdown in March, he decided to create the science kits to assist kids dealing with forced distance learning. For Muhammad, his love of science came from hands-on experiments, which wouldn't be available for kids in certain areas, with or without the pandemic closing schools.

He spoke to his teachers, and they helped him design the kits geared towards elementary school students. His goal was to create science experiments that used everyday items to explore scientific theories.

"I want kids to know that science is all around us; it doesn't need to be in a super fancy lab, with millions of dollars of equipment," he said. "It can be with the battery that you find in your smoke detector, or in the leaves of the trees outside, or in a potato."

Muhammad began working with his friend, Elias Berrick, to create the kits at home and spread the word throughout the community and social media. Then, Muhammad designed the logo and launched the Kits Cubed website. The two partnered with Seneca Family of Agencies, a nonprofit founded by Berrick's father, Ken Berrick, who serves as the CEO. This gave Muhammad the resources and office space to grow his nonprofit.

"We've been fortunate to be able to provide them with support," Ken told CNN. "They've done it on their own, and they've done an amazing job in helping engage people in science."

Muhammad said they are reaching more than 2,000 children in Oakland alone, receiving grants and donations from local organizations like the San Francisco Foundation. Former NFL star, philanthropist, and Oakland Tech alumnus, Marshawn Lynch has also supported Kits Cubed.

Muhammad told reporters that his main goal is to educate kids about science and let them know it's attainable for them.

"I want them to walk away with the knowledge and the confidence that they can be a scientist, even if they don't want to be a scientist," Muhammad told reporters. "My nephew told me he's bad at science. He doesn't like it. I want to sort of eliminate that thought and replace it with, 'I'm good at science, and I can be a scientist if I want to.' That's what I really want them to get out of it."

Kits Cubed sells three kits for $15, with three experiments in each kit: the original experiment set with a plant maze, pop rocket, and a kaleidoscope; the classic science bundle that includes a rock candy experiment, a catapult, and instructions on how to make a potato battery; and the electricity and magnetism kit that comes with the steps to creating an electromagnet, a telegraph, and an electric motor.

You're a true innovator, Ahmed; we can't wait to see what you do next!