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Studying S.T.E.M on Summer Vacation


Huntsville, AL – For many high school students, summer is an opportunity to kick back and relax. But those students selected to participate in the Summer Bridge Program at Drake State Technical College, were getting hands on lab time studying science, technology, engineering and math or the S.T.E.M. fields. The focus of this year’s Summer Bridge Program was Space Exploration. The participants, utilized math and computer science skills to conduct research and experimentation using mathematical models of the principles involved in achieving orbit and maintaining a safe living environment in space.

The most interesting thing about the program was “Dissecting worms and frogs,” comments Evian Johnson a rising senior at New Century Technology School in Huntsville, “it was disgusting, but very interesting”.

Johnson was one of approximately 80 students selected to participate in the Summer Bridge Program at Drake State, which is funded by a grant from The National Science Foundation. The participating high school students spent four hours a day for four weeks on the campus at Drake State. The goal of the program is to stimulate interest in the S.T.E.M. fields of study.

This is the third year Drake State has hosted their Summer Bridge Program. There were a record number of applicants this year with over 300 students applying for approximately 80 spots.

“The increase in interest from students indicates the program is successful. Too many times, students don’t realize the importance that science and math play in such a variety of fields of study or in career choices,” comments John Reutter, Principal for the NSF Grant at Drake State. “We are excited students are making this recognition earlier in their high school studies versus getting to college and finding out they are not properly prepared.”

The Summer Bridge program brings together a team of experienced instructors from both the high school and the college level to teach students in biology, mathematics, physics and computer science. Each day the students had a schedule that rotated two classes per day, two hours each amongst Biology, Computer Science, Math and Physics ensuring exposure in a variety of S.T.E.M. related disciplines.

Ching Lee Pongpakdee, a rising senior at Lee High School, hopes to become an engineer someday. He thought a summer program like this would help him get geared up for college, even though it’s a year away for him. Just like Johnson, Pongpakdee’s favorite part: “I got to dissect a frog, we didn’t get to do that in high school.”

Aside from dissecting a frog, the biology component of the program focused on space habitation by learning about cell membrane simulation and sucrose concentration which simulates how diabetes affects the body.

Though the highlight of the week, according to the students, did seem to revolve around biology, Chase Kerr, said he most enjoyed the physics as he aspires to study mechanical engineering in college. “The program created a good transition to college, it was a great program.”

Through the physics, mathematics and computer science components of the program, students learned about the physics principles involved in achieving orbit and utilized mathematic models and computer research to support the projects required to maintain a healthy habitat.

As part of their experience, the students received the complete curriculum for CIS146 Microcomputer Applications. Eligible students were provided with college credit for CIS146.

The High School Summer Bridge Program is open to rising junior and senior students who desire to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The program at Drake State is funded through a National Science Foundation Grant. Applications are accepted in April and May for the upcoming summer program.

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