Reaching the CrEST

When he was attending Midwood High School, a massive Brooklyn institution whose enrollment hovers around 4,000, teachers were always happy to see Sakir Hossain—at least whenever they ran into technical difficulties with a piece of equipment or software. Long fascinated by computers and gadgets, he was part of the team of student workers deployed to troubleshoot when things went wrong, and it’s easy to see why an English teacher hoping to share a presentation on medieval literature or modern poetry might breathe a sigh of relief to see Hossain when PowerPoint hits a glitch.

It’s harder to see how Hossain, who emigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh with his parents when he was an infant, found time to work: he was taking a heavy load of courses, some of them Advanced Placement, and tutoring other students on the side. Still, when a teacher told him about the chance to participate in a program called Creativity in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CrEST), developed by the Center for K12 STEM Education, he was intrigued.

CrEST, taught by students from the NYU School of Engineering, emphasizes hands-on, lab-based lessons related to circuitry, electronics, mechanical systems, physical computing, robotics and other STEM disciplines. “By the time I had completed the course, I was even able to fix my own motherboard,” he says. He had also developed an intense interest in attending the School of Engineering himself, and he entered as a freshman in the fall of 2013. He is majoring in Mechanical Engineering. “When I saw the 2008 movie Iron Man [in which a wealthy industrialist played by Robert Downey Jr. builds himself a high-tech armored suit], I was inspired,” he laughs.

Despite his course load, he remains involved with CrEST— this time as one of the teachers. The oldest son and the first in his immediate family to attend college, he is comfortable with the role of mentor. “Some of the kids I’m now working with are from Midwood,” he says. “Maybe I’ll inspire them to come to the School of Engineering too.”