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Middle-schoolers study STEM concepts at RCC

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Area middle schoolers explored the possibilities of working in STEM fields at the June 20-24 RCC summer camp focusing on those subjects.

Following several weekend STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Academy workshops for middle school students at Rappahannock Community College’s Glenns, Warsaw, King George, and New Kent locations in April, a free summer camp was held June 20-24. This session, titled “3-D IMAGES” (Three-Dimensional Introducing Minorities and Genders to Engineering and STEM), covered the subjects of 3-D visualization and computer coding. The visualization track encouraged students to imagine solutions to problems, then design and see their solution in a three-dimensional model, while the coding class allowed them to plot and experiment with their own game designs. A 3-D printer was used to generate project prototypes.

One of the purposes of the project was to encourage underrepresented genders and minorities to participate in the events and to consider STEM careers. “The response to the program was overwhelming,” said RCC dean of technology and learning resources Dr. Virginia Jones. “We had 119 students attend the half-day Saturday camps, and 87 attended the week-long camp.”

Forty-six of the 119 Saturday attendees were girls, and 11 were self-identified minorities; during the week-long camp, 26 out of 87 were girls, and 29 were minorities. “These results,” said Jones, “are positive indicators that interest is definitely strong for underrepresented populations if there is an activity in their community.” The attending students represented 11 of the 12 counties in RCC’s service region, plus the City of Williamsburg.

A survey asking parents to comment on their children’s experience at the camp drew responses affirming that students enjoyed the instruction, liked the instructors, and found the content of the presentations interesting. “We were excited to have this opportunity,” said one. “[My child] looks forward each day to attending, in an environment that fosters growth and acceptance. He feels like he is with kindred spirits . . . his own tribe of people that understand him.”

Others said, “It was an hour’s drive for us, but well worth it,” and “My son enjoyed the experience, and learned more about one of the fields he is interested in.”

posted 07.27.2016

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