SIL: Tell us about B-360 in just a few sentences.
Brittany: B-360 Baltimore (B-360) is a community partnership dedicated to changing the perception of engineers and dirt bikes to create an avenue for students to learn about STEAM using dirt bikes. B-360 uses dirt bike culture as a platform to repair and build relationships in the community, provide a pathway to career opportunities, and unite all of West Baltimore in a safe and fun way.
SIL: Why did you decide to start this? Where did the idea come from?
Brittany: Residents, regardless of who they are or where they come from, are capable of achieving greatness in the field of STEM and deserve the opportunity. We want to take passion and create opportunity & meet people at their interest level. In Baltimore and cities like it we see a growing tech industry, often within walking distances of the most crime ridden and impoverished neighborhoods that need employment, education and access to fundamental resources in order to succeed BUT have not been captured for these in-demand career opportunities. This is not because people in these areas aren’t capable but because employers may not target the demographic or residents may not have identified how their skills and passions transfer into the employment with these companies. There is an immediate need for more black engineers and a need to expose younger students to STEM in hopes of inspiring future engineers, scientists and professionals. B-360 was born out of the desire to unite dirt bike culture and the skills that riders posses along with the appeal to young students to create opportunities, unite the community and change perceptions of dirt biking and engineering.
In my experiences as an engineer, I have always seen a lack of diversity in the STEM field but also a negative perception toward black engineers. There has always been a need for engineers and the employment opportunities are there as well. Growing up in West Baltimore, every Sunday I would watch the dirt bikes come down the street just like everyone else but did not like how dirt bike riders were perceived as a menace. I’m working to change that perception and create education and career opportunities for them.
SIL: What have you accomplished so far?
Brittany: On February 20th, B-360 has kicked off with a community forum on dirt bikes to allow people to hear different perspectives on the topic and to engage the community about concerns, safety,perceptions, legality and community ownership. Riders, students, community members and various organizations left with with a better understanding of different view points. This March, we will be hosting our pilot STEM program for elementary and middle school students and have made connections with various STEM organizations & companies to offer positions to dirt bike riders.
SIL: Tell us about yourself? What got you interested in this issue? Any work experience or past professional/life experience that informs your work now?
Brittany: In my professional life, I became an engineer but noticed a lack of diversity and struggled with perception issues. At my first job as an engineer, my supervisor confused me for his secretary and from then on I was determined to get as many people who look like me in this field. It’s harder to imagine yourself in a career field if you’ve never seen anyone that looks like you in that field or if the programs designed to make you want to go into STEM aren’t inclusive. It was important for me to reach back to Baltimore and young people in neighborhoods like mine that STEM could be fun and a viable career option. B-360 is a way to attract young people to STEM because the ones we work with love dirt bikes. It’s also a way to show riders in a new light — as curious, brilliant, future engineers.
Personally, I grew up in West Baltimore and gathered every Sunday at Druid Hill to watch bikes come down the street or around the park. In recent years, I also witnessed the tension between riders and law officials unfold and the struggle within the community to “problem solve” this issue. And the solution created a task force; this hit home for me because I have a younger brother who is incarcerated at 16 and I understand directly what can happen as a result of solution based criminalization. I also saw an immediate need as an engineer to “problem solve” or to find more innovative solutions to issues that could work for both sides.
SIL: What’s your favorite place or thing to do in Baltimore?
Brittany: My favorite place in Baltimore is special — its my grandmother’s house. I know no matter how crazy my work week has been or if there are things I need to escape from at that moment, her house is always the same and provides a good break. Its also filled with a lot of memories so its comfortable.
SIL: What advice do you have for would-be social entrepreneurs thinking about starting a venture?
Brittany: If I can do it, you can too. I think that’s the magic of social entrepreneurship — if you see an issue and think of a way to solve it or to improve something, follow through with it and make it happen. I think a lot of times, people think you need some grand scheme or master idea but sometimes the least complex ideas or ventures are the best and most effective ways to make a difference and the challenge is in getting starting. Anyone that wants to start their own venture just has to make the commitment to see it through, no matter the obstacles.