Southeast Arkansas College Workforce Development and the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson County recently formed a partnership on a project to enrich STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) literacy for minority youth in Jefferson County.
Out of that collaboration came the STEM Camp, held July 8-11 on the campus of SEARK College. With the theme, “Blossom through STEM: Relate to Graduate,” the focus of the camp was to bridge the gap for minority students between the ages of 8 to 12 years of age in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curriculum before approaching high school and entering the workforce.
Verna Perry, industry training specialist at SEARK WDC, said the reason for collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club was to create an ongoing relationship to help youth with these skills.
“The camp highlights for the youth how STEM connects to graduating high school and entering the workforce with a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math,” she said.
Perry said from the camp, the youth gain understanding of how the components of STEM translate into obtaining better jobs, new innovations, and improving their communities at large.
The camp consisted of two groups of students — 12 in the Crime Scene Investigation segment and 12 in the Engineering segment.
Perry said the students were given the option to participate in the group of their choice.
The first stop on a tour of the camp, took the reporter and photographer into a classroom filled with future designers and engineers who were working on their very own designs for car rims.
Shawn Wilbanks, design instructor at SEARK College, said that during the course of the camp the students “had come up with some of the most elaborate ideas.”
Wilbanks told of one young male participant who had thought of a design for a woman’s shoe that would have a detachable heel, so that the same shoe could go from one style to another, or better yet, from one level of comfort to another.
Twelve-year-old Cameron Alexander said he likes math and had really enjoyed the program.
“I learned how to make rims. He (Wilbanks) is teaching me how to make stuff that I never thought I could in my head,” he said.
Amirha Singleton, a student at Lighthouse Charter School, said she just “wants to design stuff. I learned that math is in everything and that you can get paid for your ideas,” she said.
Amirha said because of the tips that she had been given by Wilbanks, she was sure her rim design was “going to go viral.”
Jada Lambert, 9, said math was her favorite subject and through this camp she has realized that engineering is “fun. I have learned that whatever makes me happy I should do it.”
While the future engineers were on one side of the SEARK campus letting their creative juices flow, the group of CSI participants were on the other side learning how to use microscopes, perform blood typing experiments and conduct hair and fiber analysis.
Under the instruction of Mark Shanley, science instructor at SEARK College, on this particular day, the students were learning the basics of using a microscope. However, the day before, participants were given the opportunity to dissect a rat, which most said they enjoyed a great deal.
Keonna Rice, 11, enthusiastically said, “it was so fun dissecting a rat. I got to cut the feet off.”
Alexia Milton, who hopes to one day become an orthopaedic surgeon, said she had enjoyed the camp and was the only participant who could name all of the bones in the body.
During the camp, participants in the CSI group were also afforded the opportunity to work in the CSI house on SEARK campus. The students were presented with a crime scene and were asked to process the evidence.
Perry said although this was the first STEM collaboration, Wanda Lindsey, SEARK Workforce Development Center director, and Leslie Peters, chief professional officer for the Boys and Girls Club, have hosted previous projects with youth in computer science and CSI camps.