“We learned all about the science behind airplanes and catapults and stuff. They had all these different hands-on experiments and projects that we built, and team building activities,” Ahmed Muhammad describes. “I still remember that, and I still remember all those experiments… that was my introduction to science, and I just kept with it ever since.”
He’s talking about the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK), a West Oakland summer program organized by the National Society of Black Engineers that he attended as a second grader. It sparked a life-long passion for science, and instilled in him the importance of early education: “It’s hard to like science when you grew up hating it.”
Now, Muhammad is a senior at Oakland Technical High School, a straight-A student and the point guard of Oakland Tech’s varsity basketball team. He’s also the founder of Kits Cubed, a nonprofit he started while under California’s shelter-in-place order earlier this year. It aims to provide science kits and experiments to elementary and middle school students.
The inspiration for Kits Cubed came when he was babysitting his younger niece and nephew, Ayla and Ahmeer, and decided to take a break from their usual activities. “I finally felt that they were old enough for us to do some science experiments,” Muhammad explains. “And they were like, ‘No, I hate science. I'm bad at it.’” Their reactions stunned him: “Ahmeer literally loves everything, but then when I brought up science to him, he didn't like it, but he didn't even know what it was.”
Determined to change their impressions, Muhammad designed some science experiments for them, and Kits Cubed was born. He created a website, put together his savings to produce the first few experiment sets and sold his earliest science kits to his neighbors. A few months later, he has established an office space for kit assembly, hired a team of fellow Oakland students and distributed a total of 1300 science kits in Oakland and beyond.
The kits are available for online purchase for $15, and each includes three experiments, hence the name Kits Cubed. One set features a lima bean plant maze, a kaleidoscope and a pop-rocket; another explores physics and chemistry with a catapult, potato battery and rock candy; and the newest set includes a telegraph, an electric motor and an electromagnet. Proceeds from online purchases and T-shirt sales, as well as donations, allow Kits Cubed to offer free kits to schools and students who can’t afford to pay.