June 23, 2017

AT&T-sponsored STEM camp at SVSU aims to generate academic interest among high school students

A dozen high school students are getting an early taste of college life this week , all while Saginaw Valley State University educators expose them to the exciting side of science studies.

The AT&T Great Lakes Bay Region High School STEM Residential Camp — funded in part by a $25,000 grant from the global communications company and hosted at SVSU’s campus — kicked off Monday, June 19, and concludes Friday, June 23.

During that span, SVSU educators and undergraduates are exposing high school students both to campus life and a series of projects aimed at generating interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies. The students are living in SVSU’s residential housing under the supervision of undergraduates.

Rajani Muraleedharan, SVSU assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has served as the camp’s coordinator. She said the participants are students with little exposure to higher education environments and opportunities. Muraleedharan hopes the experience inspires participants both to pursue an education beyond high school and to consider STEM studies when doing so.

“They are experiencing what life is like away from home, and that’s important for this group,” she said. “We also want to expose these students to different STEM fields to show them what may interest them.”

The students spend mornings in classrooms, learning about different STEM topics. Later in the day, they participate in team-building exercises across campus meant to generate camaraderie between their peers. All of the activities are meant to demonstrate the fun involved in college life and STEM studies.

“Some of these students say, ‘I’m not sure what I would want to do as an undergraduate,’ and when you ask why they aren’t sure, you discover they haven’t been exposed to many of these fields,” Muraleedharan said. “We want to give them that exposure; give them a career pathway.”

On Monday, the students learned about astronomy and spectroscopy. Tuesday’s lesson involved computer programming. On Wednesday, they learned about biology. Thursday’s agenda involves health sciences and included a trip to the Kochville Farmers Market near campus. On Friday, an engineering- and robotics-based lesson will include designing and building a rocket from a water bottle.

Muraleedharan said the camp has proven a success, and that participants have responded to the week’s agenda with enthusiasm.

“It’s been fantastic to see them show up with so much energy every morning,” she said.

The students are from school districts including Bullock Creek Schools, Carrollton Public Schools, Freeland Community School District, Midland Public Schools, Marlette Community Schools, and Valley Lutheran High School.