The First Family of STEM: Mason Mackie, Dr. Calvin Mackie, Tracy Mackie and Myles Mackie .
MEET MASON MACKIE: A 21ST CENTURY YOUNG RENAISSANCE MAN GROUNDED IN STEM The First Family of STEM: Mason Mackie, Dr. Calvin Mackie, Tracy Mackie and Myles Mackie NEW ORLEANS, LA – Mason was a seventh grader. His dad, Dr. Calvin Mackie, was an icon in STEM education. A former mechanical engineering professor at Tulane University, Dr. Mackie had started STEM NOLA, a popular initiative that brought STEM (science, technology, education and math) education into the heart of urban communities. As long as he could remember, Mason was an active participant in those events, building rockets, making science kits, applying the laws of physics to everyday life. But suddenly, it wasn’t fun for him anymore. “When STEM NOLA first started, I was going to all the events. It was all coming easy to me because I had been doing STEM activities at home with my dad,” Mason says. “Growing up with my dad, STEM has always been important and enforced in this household. Since my birth, we used to always play with erector sets as a kid, and magnet sets. At this one event when I was in the seventh grade, we were making science kits and I decided that I just didn’t want to do it. I remember going home and telling my dad, ‘I just don’t see myself doing this. I feel like I’m wasting my time. I don’t want to participate today.’” It was a turning point for father and son.
Mason engaged as STEM NOLA student
Dad was like, ‘What do you mean?’’’ Mason recalls. Initially, Mason says, his father didn’t understand how he could not want to participate. Afterall, STEM NOLA started in their garage when Mason and his older brother, Myles, did science activities with Dr. Mackie and children from the neighborhood joined in. But their conversation had a profound effect. It spurred Dr. Mackie to make STEM NOLA programs engaging for a wider range of children, not just those interested in STEM. And it changed forever Mason’s relationship with STEM. “Dad really started to re-evaluate what he was doing with STEM NOLA,” Mason says. “The next two days, he brought me to his room, told me there would be changes at STEM NOLA and that I would become a spokesman for STEM.”
Mason serving as volunteer teacher at STEM NOLA event
Today, the child who wanted to use his voice has transformed into an engaging high school junior, who is excelling in the classroom, at basketball and in theater. From an early age, Mason was traveling down two paths. He attended summer STEM camps, but he also enjoyed theater and drama programs. The compromise reached with his father had him delivering opening speeches at STEM NOLA events, as well as appearing on television shows and on their STEM Saturday videos. Dr. Mackie acknowledges he was shocked at first. So much of the family’s lives had resolved around STEM. His oldest son, Myles, is at Howard University on course to be a mechanical engineer. His wife, Tracy, is a pharmacist. “It was a learning experience, for sure,” says Dr. Mackie. “I love my sons. I had to open my eyes to see that Mason would be using STEM differently from the rest of the family. But it was a great thing. This experience helped me develop programming that for other kids who had interests that were adjacent to STEM.” Mason engaged as STEM NOLA student Mason serving as volunteer teacher at STEM NOLA event
“My dad was never against anything that I’m passionate about,” Mason says. “He always saw the signs that I wanted to do something else besides STEM. For example, for a long time I wanted to be a politician. I wanted to be a lawyer. I’ve been in student government my whole life. And my dad very well knew all that. So, from an early age whenever he was meeting with his friends, he was like, ‘now this one, you got to watch this one.’ But he’s always been open minded. He’s always helping me see what’s down a path that I haven’t anticipated yet. It’s hard trying to merge things and marry them. He’s really helped.” With the support of his family, Mason’s theatric work has blossomed into appearances in commercials and movies. “My mom used to always say that I was working both sides of my brain,” Mason says. He was also following the path of his uncle, Anthony Mackie, who has headlined a number of films and is the first Black Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His mother, Tracy Mackie, said that Mason is very disciplined and excels at managing his time. She called him” a natural born leader,” who sets goals for himself and achieves them, and leads by example. Currently, Mason is tied for #1 in his class at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Westwego, LA. “My Mase is an amazing young man,” gleams Mrs. Mackie. “He is energetic, thoughtful, compassionate, inquisitive, very smart and a lot of fun. He can bust some smooth dance moves, recite lines from Shakespeare, and take you to the hole playing basketball. He genuinely enjoys competing and winning math competitions throughout New Orleans. He loved competing in academic game competitions. His favorite subject this year is physics. He loves acting and has been cast in commercials, plays and movies since the age of six. He is a 21st century renaissance young man in the making.” Further, she adds: “Mase is my bowl of sunshine and he loves to have fun with family and friends. He has a positive and uplifting spirit. He is confident and very humble.” It was during a passionate speech at a STEM NOLA event when Mason made a key connection that led him to play a key character in the movie, Body Cam. “There was a lady in the audience who was a casting director and she was looking for a kid, who was Black and articulate, to play the role of “DeMarco,” a young Black teenager killed by police. And when she saw me give that speech, she was like, ‘This is him.’ She emailed me the audition that night. I went to her office the next week, auditioned, got a call back, went in front of the director, auditioned and got the part in the movie because of speaking at a STEM event.” The STEM-theatric connection didn’t stop there. The National WWII Museum in New Orleans was looking for actors to play in a mini- series that does a deep dive into the science and innovations that were part of the war effort. Mason was selected as host for the mini-series. When Cox Communications launched their Connect2Compete campaign, which gives low-cost internet to students, they selected Mason for their TV commercials and print ads after seeing him present a fuel cell car he constructed. “My devotion to STEM all those years is paying off,” Mason says. “For the first time, I could really see how the science, technology, engineering and math really marinated and joined with my passion for using my voice, speaking and theater. My dad really sat down and explained to me that I could understand so many different things in the world because of what I had been doing with STEM. And that’s when it really opened my eyes to the whole picture.” Mason even got to play in a movie, The Banker, with his famous uncle, actor Anthony Mackie. Although I was only in one scene, I gained so much from the experience,” he says. “For the few days I was on set, he took me under his wing and helped me understand the whole process. It was surreal doing a scene with him and I hope we can work together more in the future.” For Mason, 17, this has been a smooth transition that uses a full range of his talents. “Every Saturday, we hold the STEM events,” he says. “I might give a speech or help make a video. I edit video. I record a video. I go on and interview people. I’m still doing the events but my whole participation in the activities has really changed from when I was younger. Other students are also engaging in the media side of things. It’s awesome.” Mason goes to a science and technology high school, where he also stars on the basketball team and was recently name to the All-District Team. And he attended the New Orleans Creative Center for the Arts (NOCCA). He is deciding his next step. He definitely plans to go to college and is deciding on a major. He wants to hold on to some part of STEM. “I won’t just throw that out the window,” he promises. “STEM helps keep me grounded.” Yet, his mother knows exactly what his future holds: “Ten years from now Mason will be working, doing what he is passionate about and he will be an entrepreneur.” Videos of young Mason HERE ABOUT STEM GLOBAL ACTION In 2013, Dr. Calvin Mackie founded STEM NOLA, a New Orleans-based, non-profit committed to expanding STEM education at churches, community centers and schools, particularly in under-resourced communities. His goal is to make STEM education available in ALL communities. In July 2021, Dr. Mackie launched STEM Global Action, a campaign and network of affiliates, including STEM NOLA, that advances STEM education for children, parents and communities across the U.S., and abroad. Dr. Mackie hosts the Let’s Talk STEM with Dr. Calvin Mackie podcast series featuring insightful interviews with guests from all aspects of STEM – entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders and students.