The recent Governor’s Summer STEM Academy provided an opportunity for interested area sixth, seventh, and eighth graders to explore the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The free event was co-hosted with New Kent’s Bridging Communities Career and Technical Center, and held at Rappahannock Community College’s Glenns Campus, July 13-16 and July 20-23.
Twenty-two local middle school students spent the two weeks in studying robotics, alternative energy, and computer game design. Engineering instructor Pat Roane used project-based learning strategies to demonstrate principles of power conversion and robotics, allowing students to design, build robots, which they programmed to traverse an obstacle course successfully.
In the computer game design segment of the program, instructor Paula Canaday asked students to use 3-D computer programming to solve a real-world problem. They were then required to create a computer game that would demonstrate how the problem could be solved. Serving as mentors to these young scientists were Bridging Communities students Lam Quach and Tim Mathis (web and game design) and Brett Fochtmann (engineering technology).
“The kids were excited to go every day, and stayed interested the entire time,” commented a parent. Both parents and students agreed that learning was easier for them with hands-on projects, and all the students affirmed that they would take similar high-tech learning STEM classes if they were offered in their high schools. An overwhelming majority said they planned to go on to college, and perhaps become scientists. “It made me think about a job besides playing football!” stated one student.
According to Bridging Communities director Dr. Stephen Trexler, “The goal of the Summer STEM Academy is to inspire young learners to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines by creating fun, hands-on learning opportunities.”