KSU hosts STEM camp to educate Cleveland youth

India Hines

The smell of sheep brains fills the lab in Cunningham Hall as visiting high school and middle school students raise their scalpels for dissection.

Students from the Greater Cleveland area are participating in the residential STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) camp this summer at Kent State University. Students were chosen through interview for the chance to attend the camp.

The camp is the collaboration of the newly created STEM Research and Education Center at Kent State and Cleveland’s Urban League, which combined funding to be able to create the camp.

“We wanted to show we can do something big with limited resources,” said Jessie Guinn, STEM Education and Outreach postdoctoral research associate, “We hope to prepare something bigger for next year if funding allows it.”

The STEM camp consists of 12 eighth-graders and seven female high school students. Throughout the summer, students learn about neuroscience, motion, design, flight and other things related to STEM in a NASA-approved curriculum the students. Along with learning, the students experienced a dose of college life.

“The programs gives us an idea about college life,” Nishayla Conner, junior from Shaw High School said. “It is hard work and no sleep.”

Jerryka Kidd, Shaw High School junior, said she enjoyed networking and meeting the different professionals on campus. Kidd and Conner both said that the program is very interactive.

“We understand that they are being lectured to for nine months out the year, so we want to educate and entertain,” said Guinn.

Dissecting the brain is not the only interactive activity. The eighth-grade students participated in a word definition relay race in order to test their linguistic skills. The definitions were on the wall and students had to guess which definitions matched with each words. Guinn says he “could see the students deep in thought.”

“The goal was not the speed, but it was the accuracy,” said Guinn.

Students also watched a video about design and innovation and then were challenged to support a marshmallow with uncooked spaghetti noodles. The students drew out their ideas and then made real-life replicas with the marshmallow and spaghetti. One of the ideas they came up with was building a skyscraper to hold the gooey treat.

“They brainstormed, drew their ideas, and began building their model,” said Guinn. “They were able to do what the professionals do.”

Guinn said he hopes to help the students understand science is fun, and introduce them all the possibilities within STEM careers.

Kidd and Conner said they think the program will build upon their knowledge, and help them down the path to discover their own interests within STEM.

“This program is the first day of the rest of their lives,” said Larkesha Burns Askew, coordinator of the parent empowerment network of Cleveland Urban League.

Contact India Hines at [email protected].