Red Clay’s STEM Program Thrills Students

August 3rd, 2012

Category: News

A few weeks ago, I attended a showcase put on by some budding young engineers where I got to see robots, roller coasters, alternative-energy race cars, and even a few rocket launches.  What made this event even more exciting is that I had taught a few of these engineers to multiply fractions and solve equations just a few months earlier.

For the second summer in a row, Red Clay offered its S3 (Summer STEM Scholars) Program.  For 17 days, 160 students in grades 6-8 have the opportunity to become scientists, engineers, programmers, entrepreneurs, and musicians.  Scholars chose to participate in three, week-long projects, including robotics, musical instrument design, and bottle rockets. The program also offered a communications workshop, where scholars built their resume, designed a business card, and developed a marketing strategy for their summer projects.  The program culminated in an expo where students demonstrated their work for parents, teachers, community leaders, and elected officials.

This year’s program was twice as big as last year’s, both in terms of activities offered and students attending.  The math teacher in me was ecstatic to see students choosing to be in school and interacting with next-generation technology.  Here are a few things I took away from my visit to S3:

  • The students were excited to be there! On presentation day, there was a student panel in the auditorium.  Almost every student said he or she wanted to come back next year and wanted the program to be longer.  It’s clear the program is doing something right if students would want to spend more of their summer days in a school working on science and math projects.
  • Studies have found that the grade-level equivalency of students from low-income communities regresses by 2-3 months during summer vacation.  In practical terms, this means a student from a low income community will have lost a full year’s worth of learning by the time he or she enters fifth grade.  However, high-quality summer programs like S3 can actually combat this learning loss and even further student achievement gains during the summer months.
  • The STEM Scholars were a diverse group, with boys and girls from many ethnic backgrounds and from all parts of Wilmington.  For a long time, we have limited ourselves as a country by under-including women and racial and ethnic minorities in the hard sciences.  Even today, just 22% of engineering doctorates are awarded to women while only 12% of undergraduate engineering degrees are awarded to under-represented minorities.  However, many national and local organizations (including FAME, founded by the Du Pont Corporation) are working to make our science and engineering corps more representative of our nation as a whole.  I was encouraged to see the diversity in this program and hope many of the scholars will continue to participate in STEM in high school and college.

To see an event photo of a student showing his project to U.S. Senator Tom Carper, visit our Pinterest page.

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Dan Hay



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