How can you use a suspect’s computer to recover important clues for solving a crime? How can we use the energy in sunlight to power our planet? How can the way voting districts are drawn affect the fairness of our elections? What are the biological changes that happen to our bodies during exercise, and why?
The College of Science at Eastern Kentucky University launched a science and math summer camp this year to engage high school students in using tools offered by science and math to craft viable solutions to such world problems.
The college’s first-ever summer camp for rising high school juniors and seniors was held June 3-8, with 20 participants from eight counties: Fayette, Garrard, Jefferson, Knott, Madison, Wolfe and Woodford in Kentucky, and Butler in Ohio.
One of the goals of the camp was to inspire high school students to become excited about science and mathematics through academically focused activities. Thecamp experience was centered on the development of solutions to real-world problems. Each day, the students tackled a different day-long activity, engaging in seeking solutions to a specific problem using scientific and/or mathematical approaches. Each of the activities was led by an EKU professor, and each student got to experience multiple activities from different science and math disciplines. The curriculum for the camp was developed by a group of professors from all six departments in the college, led by Dr. Judith Jenkins, assistant professor of chemistry.
The camp also featured informational sessions in which campers learned about academic programs offered by EKU’s College of Science, career opportunities to which the academic programs can lead, strategies for getting college-ready, the college admission process, EKU’s Honors Program, and cooperative education and internship opportunities. “These informational sessions are important in helping students design their educational and career paths,” explained Dr. Karin Sehmann, associate dean for the College of Science.
Jose Algarin, the college’s STEM recruitment and outreach coordinator, who served as the camp director, said the camp “was intentionally designed as a residential camp to introduce the participating high school students to a university campus living experience. Hence, recreational activities were built into the camp program each evening.” Among the after-hours activities was an event where students competed by firing projectiles at a target using a model of Leonardo da Vinci’s catapult. Other recreational activities included dance/karaoke sessions, board games, planetarium show, billiards and ping pong games, and movies.
“The camp gave the students an opportunity to interact and make friends with people from diverse backgrounds that they would have otherwise not met,” Algarin added.
One of the specific goals of the camp was to help in recruitment of underrepresented minorities into science and mathematics disciplines. “We were intentional in our recruitment efforts to include the participation of members of groups typically underrepresented in these fields in the camp, and I am pleased with the outcome,” said Dr. Tom Otieno, dean of the College of Science. Sixty-five percent of the campers were female, and 45 percent of the participants were of racial/ethnic minorities.
All the students said they would recommend the camp to others. “I liked the fact that everyone was open,” one camper said. “Made it a lot better to enjoy.” Another “liked all the new areas of science there was to explore.” Another “loved being able to have a campus/classroom experience” and “liked meeting new people.”
On the morning of the last day of the camp, students prepared electronic presentations reflecting upon their camp experience. The camp ended with the students sharing their presentations with their parents and peers in the afternoon.
The camp was sponsored in part by a donation from a corporate partner, Novelis Aluminum Corporation, and by a grant from the Kentucky-NSF EPSCoR.