Learning how to code a robot. Taking your first plane ride. Making friends and meeting mentors.
These are some of the moments that mark the memories of the students – and teachers – from central Pennsylvania who won scholarships to a unique summer residential learning opportunity focusing on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
That opportunity is now open to apply to the 2019 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Summer STEM Programs. This two-week program for high school students and teachers will be July 6-19, and the one-week program for middle school students will be July 13-19. Across 13 Appalachian states, a total of up to 52 high school participants (26 students and 26 teachers) and 26 middle school students will be accepted into this competitive program.
This all-expenses-paid opportunity allows students and teachers to work with world-class scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Students will participate in intensive hands-on science, math, and computer science technology group research projects with award-winning scientists. ORNL staff will assist high school faculty in developing STEM-related curriculum.
The programs culminate in a graduation ceremony showcasing participants’ work. Now in their 30th year, the programs often are the first major exposure participating students – many of whom are from Appalachia’s most economically distressed counties – have to applied science and STEM education. The programs include lab time and visits to nearby industries, universities, and museums to experience real-world applications of science, math, and technology.
SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) is inviting and supporting applications from middle and high school students and high school teachers from its 11-county region for the ARC/ORNL 2019 Summer STEM Programs. Those counties are: Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder and Union.
Application materials, participation criteria, and other materials are available at www.arc.gov/summerSTEM. Submit applications by or on March 8 to SEDA-COG’s Liz Herman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit questions via email or call 570-524-4491.
Last year, those chosen from SEDA-COG’s 11-county region were two high school students and two teachers.
For Mercedes Snyder, an East Juniata High School then-sophomore, the experience was even “better than I expected.”
Her group’s focus at the institute was circuitry, and at the end, they presented circuits they made.
Snyder had butterflies preparing for her circuitry presentation, but she met it with resolve: “I thought, it’s do or die. So, I started off strong and I ended strong, and I was so proud of myself that I didn’t mess up or forget anything. I explained circuitry,” she said.
She also was fascinated by the fully functional 3D printed car at the institute and learning how to use a 3D printer.
The experience influenced her future goals. On one of their outings in Tennessee, they went to a veterinary school where she was impressed with the amount of care for horses – her favorite animal.
“It solidified the fact that I’ve always loved animals and I want to be a vet. I dreamed of that when I was younger, and it’s something that makes me happy and makes a profit. So, I would say this has been impactful for narrowing my options for me,” Snyder said.
Although it was difficult for her mom, Rose Weiand, to let her go at the airport, she saw growth in her daughter even in that short amount of time.
Snyder would go again in a heartbeat. “It was such a fun experience and I still have friends that I talk to that I made there,” she said.
Baxter Hostetler, then a junior at State College Area High School, said he too made a lot of friends, and he learned how to code a robot to navigate through an obstacle course using sensors. His presentation detailed that process and how infrared sensors are faster at navigating mazes than touch sensors.
He also met mentors who advised career paths. Those contacts were invaluable, he said.
During the various activities and outings, he conquered some fears.
“Normally, I’m terrified of rides and heights, but we had a lot of fun at Dollywood. Now, I love amusement parks. We also did a ropes course in the trees, and I did it! I conquered that fear of heights,” Hostetler said.
His mom, Michelle Hostetler, called his experience “epic.”
“When he got back, he was beside himself. These are the best experiences he’s ever had,” she said.
He plans to major in chemistry.
Adam Steininger Jr., a Physics/Engineering/Astronomy teacher at Midd-West High School, called it a “wonderful experience.” At the institute, he studied alongside world-class researchers about how proteins are linked to and can be used to treat certain diseases. At the end, he presented protein information through a 3D model, which can help students visualize it.
He enjoyed the professional development with other teachers and learning from their perspectives, pulling together ideas of how to present this information to their classrooms.
“I would definitely do it again if I could,” Steininger said.
Kristina Rogers, an Environment/Ecology/9th grade Science teacher at Lewisburg High School, loved being in the “real-world lab setting” and working in the chemical sciences division.
She worked with a scientist whose focus was growing biomass as a fuel alternative, aiming to learn faster ways to obtain biofuels. Her presentation was about finding better, faster ways to obtain biofuels and bioproducts from plants. “We’re definitely progressing on the path to make bioproducts,” she said.
Like the students, she enjoyed the activities that included the Smoky Mountains trail and an aquarium. The other highlight was networking with teachers, sharing ideas, and learning, she said.
“This experience was awesome – I highly recommend it,” Rogers said.
To watch the full presentations, visit http://ow.ly/wBOS30naquv.