Ten local students, 2 teachers to participate in TAMU-Commerce’s STEEM program

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

May 27, 2007 - Ten students from three local school districts and two teachers from one district have been selected to participate in two intensive educational programs offered for the first time this summer at Texas A&M University-Commerce for high school students and teachers.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Joshua Formosa, Cindy Hatfield, Fatima Basrai, MB Basrai, Minerva Marquez and Cody Clawson, and teachers Olivia Barnett and Amanda Thompson of Sulphur Bluff High School will participate in Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Project STEEM X-TEEMS summer camp and year long academy. SB’s Trey Henderson, Como-Pickton’s Thien Bui, and Yantis’ Amanda McKinney and Cory Ward will attend the STEEM Infinity Institute.

Sulphur Bluff has a group of six students and two teachers who will be among 10 X-TEEMS selected to attend TAM-C’s two week Project Science, Techology, Engineering, Education and Math (STEEM) X-TEEMS Academy on July 9-20, and will participate in the X-TEEMS Year Long Academy.

The nine other “rural and financially disadvantaged school districts” approved for participation include Boles, Caddo Mills, Celina, Clarksville, Commerce, Cooper, Leonard, Quinlan and Whitewright.

The SB group includes six students  — Joshua Formosa, Cindy Hatfield, Fatima Basrai, M.B. Basrai, Minerva Marquez and Cody Clawson – with a wide array of interests, educational abilities, skills and grade levels. Olivia Barnett will be the math instructor and Amanda Thompson will be the science instructor.

�They wanted students of all different ranges and abilities. Some are high achievers and very interested in science or math, and others have different interests, and we picked a few who might achieve well in science. The goal is that we�ll keep some interested in it and draw in others,� Barnett said.�

The students will learn about robotics, computer programming, roller coaster physics, medicine, crime scene investigation and other STEEM-related topics. The teachers will be exposed to various project-based learning approaches under the supervision of TAMU-Commerce professors.

�A&M-Commerce and the Greater Texas Foundation want to open their eyes to career possibilities in math, science and technology,� said Kerri O�Connor, Project STEEM director. �Sometimes they don�t think what those possibilities are. After all, these are students who have the potential to one day make the inventions that will change our world.�

�Everyone is excited. I�m looking forward to it. The kids are so excited about math and science. We�re hoping it will be contagious. This is the first year they�ve done in this area. I think they plan to do it for three year. Every year they�ll have a different 10 schools. You can only participate for one year,� said Barnett.

They will attend the two week workshop in July at TAMUC, then will go back to their school and come up with a project which incorporates the STEEM disciplines and work on it throughout the year.

�We�ll have 12 to 14 kids total. We�ll bring in six or seven next year for the year long project. At the end of the two weeks of summer day camp, the six students along with their teachers will pick a project for the school year.� ... We�ll be working on this after hours and weekends. All have agreed to do it,� Barnett said.

The students participating in the year long project will show it at two expos — one while in progress to show how the project is developing and share with other schools in a science fair type atmosphere and the other a wrap up session in April to tell how the project finished out.

Students will be involved in various activities (some of high intensity) that are designed to spark interests in the STEEM disciplines; they include: in-class lectures, dry and wet lab experiments, and science-based team building activities. The effects of these activities on the achievement of students at different levels will be determined.

In addition to the X-TEEMS, a group of 26 high achieving high school students from financially disadvantaged schools in rural East Texas will participate in an intense summer science program called Infinity Institute and have their interest in science monitored over a 3-year period. Four area students — Thien Bui, Como-Pickton; Amanda McKinney and Cory Young, Yantis; and Trey Henderson, Sulphur Bluff — who have just completed their sophomore year are among the 26.

The intensive summer camp begins Sunday, June 3 with orientation and check in at the dorms where they will be staying from 6 p.m. Sunday through 6 p.m. Friday, June 3-29, at the campus.

Students are selected based on the an essay showing interest in the camp; GPA and test scores, a list of activities and awards showing each student’s participation and interest areas; 2 letters of recommendation from school officials, and family information to help select students who can truly benefit from this precollege experience.

Of the 54 top candidates culled from applications from students in 120 rural school districts, Bui, Henderson, Ward and McKinney were among the to 26 selected to attend Infinity Institute, a free summer camp funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Greater Texas Foundation.

Students were also selected from Wolfe city, Prairieland, Caddo Mills,  Collinsville, one from Quinlan, two from Boles, one from Celeste, one from Chisum, one from Hawkins, one Clarksville, two Van Alstyne, on DeKalb, one Leonard, on Rivercrest, on Atlanta, one White wright and one Gilmer.

The students attend morning lectures and in the afternoons take part in laboratory work on such topics as bio-mathematics, various laboratory exercises, science-based team building activities, and field trips to industrial labs, including Texas Instruments in Dallas and Tyco Industries, and university research labs, including The University of Texas at Dallas and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

The students will also benefit from mentoring professors and get their first taste of college life and gaining a better understanding of what study at the university level offers.

�We want students not only to get excited about studying math, science and technology, we want them to know that the university is not a big, scary place to be. We want to touch the lives of students in rural schools who might not get an opportunity to attend a camp like this if Project STEEM did not exist,� O�Connor said.

In addition to the academic and related field trips, the students will also participate in social activities such as movies and a canoe trip on the Lower Mountain Fork River in Oklahoma.

At end of Infinity Institute, the students will also receive a $1,700 stipend for their participation to allow students to participate who might otherwise need to have a summer job. They also network with other students interested in math and science, and puts them in the running for a chance at a college scholarship from TAMUC in the area of math and science.

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