Dr. Mackie's journey to introducing STEM to student in NOLA


Dr. Calvin Mackie, Creator of STEM in NOLA discusses the founding of STEM NOLA, the mission of the organization, and the significance of STEM and education for black kids.


Britney Fonmedig


My Nola, My Story via Youtube


Mass Communication Department at Xavier University of Louisiana


May 5, 2021


Britney Fonmedig


My Nola, My Story


My Nola, My Story 2021






A Digital Humanities project by Xavier University of Louisiana's Mass Communication department students, led by Dr. Shearon Roberts

Original Format


[0:00 - 0:03] Intro Music and Intro Slide

[0:04 - 2:59] Britney: Can you please introduce yourself?

Dr. Mackie: My name is Calvin Mackie -Dr. Calvin Mackie- from New Orleans Louisiana. After I left New Orleans I went to college in Atlanta. I went to Morehouse College first where I got a BS in mathematics. And I was going to a three-two program with Morehouse and Georgia Tech, so I left Morehouse after 3 and a half years and then went to Georgia Tech. Eighteen months later I got a BS in mechanical engineering. I stayed at Georgia Tech and got a masters and PHD in mechanical engineering, so I got 4 STEM degrees in 11 years. After I finished Georgia Tech, I decided to come back home. I became a professor at Tulane, where I was a professor for 12 years. I became the first and only African American in the history of the college of engineering at Tulane. I tell people, you know, it was very traumatic: 12 years, I went to work everyday listening to Tupac “Me Against the World,” I left everyday listening to Biggie Smalls “Who shot you” because it was definitely a hostile environment. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Tulane decided to eliminate the engineering school, so I am a person that actually lost tenure. After they eliminated the engineering school I decided not to go back to the academy. I decided to do the work that I was doing in the community. I had an alternative energy company I founded. My alternative energy company is one where we take waste strains, and we were making biofuels, but now we take waste strains and we make petroleum free plastic products. Then 8 years ago I found STEM NOLA. My wife and I, my wife is Tracy Mackie. Tracy is a graduate of Xavier, I have to say that, she is a graduate of the school of Pharmacy. And we founded STEM NOLA to expose, inspire, and engage communities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: STEM. We go into communities and have big events, engaging K12 kids with hands-on activities, so we can demystify what STEM is and also inform the community: the parents and the kids of what STEM is. And give them an enjoyable experience in the hope that they will see STEM as a possible career option or choice for them. We’ve been doing that for now 8 years. We’re in the middle of 8 years. We’ve engaged over 65,000 K12 kids, over 17,000 families, over 1,500 college students and STEM professionals. We engage the college students as college interns, the majority of them have been from Xavier. And I am happy to say over the last 7 years we have put over a million dollars in the hands of college students, paying them as college interns. So that is it in a nutshell

[2:59 - 4:17] Britney: Why did you create STEM NOLA?

Dr. Mackie: My son, when he was in the 2nd grade, he had an amazing teacher that did a lot of hands-on activities. So in the beginning of his 3rd grade, he came, home he said “daddy I don't like science anymore” and I’m like “boy that's not possible it's in your DNA.” He said “no, the teacher just talks to the board” and I said “we have to change that.” So, we started going in the garage and started doing all these hands-on activities in STEM. And I guess about 9 weeks later he came home, at some point in the year he came home, and he said “daddy I got all As.” I said “that is what I expect of you.” He said “daddy my friends wanna know how I know all of this.” I said “did you tell them you do this in the garage with your daddy,” He said “yeah daddy, but my friends need this.” And right then and there he realized that he had been exposed to somebody and thing that his friends were not and in his heart of hearts he believed that if his friends were exposed, if they had access, they would be just as smart as him. And I realized right then and there, I was keeping all my time, talent, and treasure in my house, to my two when maybe my wife and I had something to offer the world. So, that is when we said hey let's see how we can package this and bring it to the community.

[4:18 - 6:31] Britney: Why did you choose to focus your organization to only NOLA? Was it a conscious decision you made?

Dr. Mackie: The answer is yes right. Ummm, I had become so flustered in New Orleans, I was gonna leave, move back to Atlanta, start STEM Atlanta. I had a mentor that said, you know, it would take you another lifetime to build the social capital that you have in New Orleans, so whatever it is you are trying to do, you need to go back to New Orleans and do it. Now we called it STEM NOLA because we were working in the community and I believe communities should own their solutions. We’ve expanded to other areas right, we have STEM Grambling, we have STEM Baton Rouge, we have STEM Northside Minneapolis. What we have done is that we have built a model that is scalable, transferable, and reproducible in these other cities. So, by calling it STEM NOLA, it was crystal clear that we were providing STEM for New Orleans. Like, when companies give money, they want to make sure that the money stays in their city, So, when I go to Baton Rouge and call it STEM NOLA, they will be like “you are taking our money back to New Orleans. So that’s why we created the affiliates STEM Baton Rouge, so the companies there can invest in a solution in their community. We created the solution, but it will be executed by someone from Baton Rouge that understands the community and how to move around in the community. So, yes we started STEM NOLA because that was our first little city and now we are trying to create STEM DC, STEM Prince George County, STEM Baltimore- all of that is on the horizon. Now , STEM NOLA is a trade name. The real name of our nonprofit is Center for the Innovative Training of Youth. That’s C I T Y, what does that spell; city . So we are trying to create these STEM Centers for the Innovative Training of Youth, like STEM NOLA, like STEM Baton Rouge, like STEM Miami. So, we are creating these STEM cities, and that's gonna be the umbrella and then with all these STEM cities under.

[6:32 - 7:40] Britney: Who inspired you to begin STEM NOLA?

Dr. Mackie: Besides my sons, I had an advisor. My PHD advisor, an African American woman by the name of Doctor Carolyn Meyers and there was another woman named Linda Brown who was the dual degree engineering program director when I was going through the dual degree engineering program. There was another gentleman by the name of Dean Thomas Blocart at Morehouse. When I walked up to the Morehouse college campus, he called me a doctor and I couldn’t even spell PHD. Ms. Brown just really helped me believe that I could do this engineering stuff. When I got to Georgia Tech, Carolyn Meyers was the professor who took me under her wing, as like one of her own kids. Those three people right there changed the trajectory of my life, and by changing the trajectory of my life, they changed the trajectory of my entire family. What they did for me, I wanna do for others.
[7:41 - 9:01] Britney: Why do you think it is important to encourage young black kids to purse a n education in STEM?

Dr. Mackie: Especially STEM. We live in a country, that makes sure every black and brown boy touches a football before the age of four. And then they’ve created pathways, they’ve created the motivation, they tell stories to make sure that these black boys pursue that pipe dream. And every year, we have millions and millions of black boys disenfranchised by this post-apparatus, so they can extract 250 into the NBA every year. When I believe that many of us have a greater gift that otherwise can serve society just other than playing basketball or football or sports. It takes the same amount of time to develop an engineer or doctor that it takes to develop a basketball player or football player. So, why is it we have a society that only sees our body as value, but doesn't see our minds? Especially when they are mining a millionaire a day in Silicon Valley. We need to be sitting at those tables, becoming millionaires and billionaires. And then if we choose, we can buy the basketball team and take care of those young men and those young women in the way that they are supposed to be.

[9:02 - …] Britney: What is your goal for students who participate in STEM NOLA? What type of change do you wish to impart in the NOLA community in large?

Dr. Mackie: Britney, There is gonna be a day. I don’t know, I may be dead, but a little boy or a little girl is gonna do something great and somebody is going to be interviewing them like you. And somebody is gonna ask them, “When did you know that you could do this” and they may not remember my name, they may not remember where it was , they may not even remember the title of the day. But they will say I was a kid and one day my momma or my daddy took me to a gym and I did this and when I did that, I knew then that I could do this. If you are not exposed to it, you will never seek to be it and if you never seek to be it, you will never be it, and if you are never it, you will never do it. And that is why so many of us are so caught up in the pipe dream of sports and entertainment because that’s the only thing that this country sells us. So, my dream and vision is to change the mindset of what is possible for our children in the eyes of not only educators, not only in the eyes of their parents, but in their own eyes. The thing about this is that when you believe that you can be something and there is a pathway, as African Americans we have shown that we won’t only want you to do it, we will bust it wide open. Therefore, that’s the vision right. You know, people say “Why you gotta give STEM to ‘em so early?” I say well they didn’t wait until Shaquille O’Neal got to high school to give him the basketball. We knew LeBron was gonna be one of the best players in the world because in the ninth grade they had him on Sports Illustrated. They didn’t wait until Venus and Serena got to elementary school to give them the tennis racket. Hell, they didn’t wait until Tiga got to kindergarten to give him the golf club because Tiger Woods daddy had him out there hitting the ball at 3 and 4 years old. There’s a rule of 10,000 hours. They say if you do something for 10,000 hours, you become an expert right. You gotta do something for 10,000 hours and that's 1,000 hours a year, so it makes sense that when Tiger started playing golf at 4, he was playing golf with the professionals at 14. LeBron picked up the basketball at 6 or 7 and at 16 or 17 they were like this boy can play with the pros. Serena and them played tennis for 10 years! So, my vision is to have a million kids doing STEM on Saturdays across this country and we do that by putting the model that we’ve created all over this country and exposing kids from the cradle all the way to their career.


12:07 (12 minutes, 7 seconds)


Britney Fonmedig


Britney Fonmedig


STEM NOLA and Dr. Calvin Mackie.jpg
Date Added
February 24, 2021
Item Type
Moving Image
Britney Fonmedig, “STEM in NOLA,” MY NOLA, MY STORY , accessed March 2, 2024,