By Sharon Chin

OAKLAND (KPIX) — A pair of young men in are making science more interactive and inviting for kids in Oakland who have yet to tap into their inner scientist.

Ahmed Muhammad was babysitting his grade school niece and nephew at the start of the pandemic a year ago.

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“I asked them, ‘Do you want to try science?’ They said, ‘No, they hated science,'” Muhammad recalled.

So the Oakland Technical High School senior designed some hands-on experiments.

“They loved it. The joy they felt is what I wanted to share,” he said.

The 18-year-old high school student then began creating science kits for elementary-aged kids.

His 19-year-old friend, Eli Berrick, shared his vision, and joined the project.

“I thought it was an amazing idea,” Berrick said.

“Growing up in Oakland, there’s huge income disparity, wealth, education disparity,” Berrick continued. “I’ve always wanted to do something about that.”

The pair began Kits Cubed. Each kit contains three activities, from growing a plant maze to creating a potato battery.

Kits Cubed has sold 3,500 science kits online at $15 apiece. The money goes back into making more kits. Each one requires a few items students may find around the house, like potatoes for the potato battery, and markers to do some coloring.

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At the end of each instruction manual, the pair pays tribute to Oakland, giving it a chemical symbol and 510 area code.

Thanks to donations and grants, Muhammad and Berrick have given 1,500 free kits to students at Oakland schools like Piedmont Avenue Elementary whose families and caregivers may not be able to afford them.

Principal Zarina Ahmad says the kits have been so popular, she got a $10,000 grant to buy more.

“Parents said, ‘Get more of these.’ Students were saying, ‘I love these science kits.’ Some made a video and gave it a five-star rating,” Ahmad said.

While Muhammad and Berrick started Kits Cubed from home, it’s now fiscally-sponsored by Seneca Family of Agencies the nonprofit run by Eli’s Dad, Ken Berrick. He is impressed by the pair’s dedication.

“They were organized in the organization to be successful, they were very responsible with their donors’ funding. Those are things I would look for in any nonprofit and they just executed,” said Ken Berrick.

Eli Berrick, a UCLA freshman, and Muhammad, who’s been accepted to Stanford, say it’s rewarding inspiring kids to get interested in science.

“We tapped into the inner scientist of a kid. Super. How can we stop?” said Muhammad.

“Man, this is why we do this.” Berrick added.

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So for multiplying science learning with Kits Cubed, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Ahmed Muhammad and Eli Berrick.