Public Affairs

STEM Takes Root in Summer, Grows at CSU

July 14, 2011
By Elizabeth Chapin

Throughout the summer, CSU campuses are host to hundreds of campers, but they aren’t in traditional summer camps. To help prepare them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, California’s kids are spending their summer breaks learning about science and technology. Whether they’re exploring engineering or mastering math, CSU campers get the ideal summer playing ground for the sciences.

Scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians are critical to the development of new products and discoveries. In the United States, the need for such professionals continues to grow. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job growth for STEM occupations is expected to increase 22 percent between 2004 and 2014. The BLS also reports that California is one of six states that account for 40 percent of STEM jobs, so maintaining an educated workforce in science and technology is critical for the state’s economy.

The Obama administration has addressed its concern over the growing need for STEM careers by forming coalitions and increasing grant funding to programs that will serve to attract more young Americans to STEM majors and careers. Many of the STEM summer camps at the CSU are recipients of such federal grant funding. In addition, the camps are suited for California’s diverse population. Experts say that focusing on attracting minorities to STEM fields is also key to addressing this problem. Even as our population becomes more diverse, these groups continue to be underrepresented in math and sciences.

Sharpening Skills
Many of the CSU camps focus on utilizing the summer time to improve skills in science and mathematics, as they are a critical part of advancing toward a degree and a career in STEM fields. Over the summer, campuses also offer "bridge" programs, which get kids on the path to a degree with intensive math instruction. Because mathematics is not only a gateway to these occupations; it opens up doors to limitless opportunities.

The Bridges to Baccalaureates program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo brings community college students from a high-needs area to work on research projects under the direction of Cal Poly faculty. This summer, Cal Poly has 16 community college students working with professors in the program, which is funded by a 5-year $848,000 NIH grant. The goal of the program is to encourage underrepresented students to go on to STEM careers.

SJSU President Mo Qayoumi met students from the Alum Rock School District taking part in the Alearn program.ALearn, an organization that helps low-income, underrepresented middle school students get ready for math and college, brings local students to San José State, where they take an intensive math course over the summer to prepare for eighth-grade algebra. The middle-schoolers also learn more about what it takes to succeed in college. SJSU President Qayoumi meets with this year's participants.(Left)

At Cal State Fullerton, more than 200 young girls from high schools and junior high schools in the surrounding community will participate in Project MISS. The free program gives student participants intensive mathematics instruction in geometry, algebra and precalculus — and the confidence to succeed and reach the goal of earning a college education. Now entering its 22nd year, approximately 98 percent of the program’s participants have gone on to attend college. With its focus on young girls, the program includes women scientists that serve as guest speakers and role models.

The Summer Enrichment Academy session at CSU Monterey Bay brings 100 local high school students to campus. They come four days a week for six weeks to improve their skills in algebra II, geometry or pre-calculus – fundamentals for high school graduation or college admission. But the students learn that math and science isn’t all work and no play: they also take a class in basic computer programming and, working in teams, design a video game.

Kids take part in a hands-on experiment at Sacramento State's Academic Talent SearchSacramento State
has a summer program called Academic Talent Search that letshigh school students enrich their summers with STEM and get college credit. Each summer, 2,300 students come to the university study and explore subjects including computer science, engineering and mathematics. Students take courses such as an engineering class that allows them to combine engineering practices with their imagination to design and build devices.

As part of program that offers two summer camps for underserved students at CSU San Marcos, middle schoolers attend a one-week science camp over the summer. The camp is part of a larger grant program called Investigations for Quality Understanding and Engagement for Students and Teachers, or iQUEST, and supports middle-school science teachers in utilizing technology to engage students in investigations that lead to a better understanding of science. The three-year project, now entering its final year, received a $1.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The California Maritime Academy hosts the Summer Academic Enrichment Program, a free six-week residential program for high school students, primarily sophomores and juniors, interested in academic enhancement in preparation for college. The students learn how to work together as a team in engineering projects, and also learn sailing and rowing activities. Each student also gets a true taste of college life—they live in the residence hall, eat in the dining hall, and are graded in college level courses that include college algebra, trigonometry, calculus, general physics, English literature, and engineering.

CSU Dominguez Hills reached out to approximately 1,000 high school students this summer at the Generation STEM Symposium. Although not technically a camp, the event, which was presented by the South Bay Workforce Investment Board, showcased careers in science and technology, with presenters from businesses throughout the Los Angeles region.

The Science of the Great Outdoors
Most would associate summer camp with the great outdoors, but these CSU camps let kids discover the science behind mother nature.

This summer, Cal State East Bay's Concord campus was host to the Contra Costa Environmental Sciences Summer Camp for high school students. The camp features a full variety of experiences including a balance of lecture, hands-on labs and field visits. Students and teachers hear from leading experts and explore a range of topics in the natural sciences. They also conduct research using the latest GPS technology, and working in teams, do a project which concludes in the creation of a Public Service Announcement delivered before a panel of industry professionals. In addition, students successfully completing the camp received one unit of college credit.

Kids learn about the ecosystem at Camp SEA labAt CSU Monterey Bay, Camp SEA Lab fosters scientific understanding and stewardship of the coasts and ocean by providing marine oriented programs that promote adventure for kids. With a hands-on approach to education, campers gain knowledge and insight on how to preserve and protect the environment, and what a career in marine science entails.


Engineering is Engaging
Engineering camps offer campers some of the most engaging hands-on activities. Due to limited resources, many young students don’t get the opportunity to explore engineering. But thanks to partnerships and funding from organizations like NASA, and the dedication of CSU faculty, students and volunteers, these students can see how engineers truly create the world around them.

At IMPACT LA, a summer day camp led by Cal State L.A. science and engineering graduate students, campers participate in creative design challenges, innovative science activities, outdoor games, and hands-on activities. The camp charges up the IMPACT LA Graduate Teaching Fellows for the fall, when they begin developing hands-on lessons from their research for the classrooms. The graduate students will serve as visiting scientists and engineers at local middle schools.

Students take part in a hands-on project at Cal Poly SLO's EPIC CampOver the summer, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is host to the Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC) Camp, which is a one-week program for high school students. At EPIC, the students learn about engineering and take part in hands-on labs, taught by Cal Poly professors or grad students and assisted by current Cal Poly students. In addition to getting the whole university experience, the students can explore the different types of engineering available in college. Students will be able to meet other students through fun activities on Cal Poly's campus like bowling, rock climbing, scavenger hunts, or video game systems. This year, students will hear from guest speakers including a Cal Poly alum who leads a product design team for Apple’s iPad.

The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids, or "SEEK” Camp at San Diego State is a concept designed by the National Society for Black Engineers in 2007 to build a pipeline to STEM careers for African-American and other under-represented minority children. The students, third to fifth-graders, come primarily from San Diego County.

"One of the great joys of education is when we see students get excited about something new," said James R. Kitchen, SDSU's vice president for student affairs. "The SEEK Camp exposes 150 students every day to things they've never seen or done before. You can see the excitement in their eyes. And, hopefully, some of them are being inspired to pursue careers in the STEM fields as they move forward with their education."

Students in the Engineering and Design Careers Pathway Academy at CSUCI testing the strength of their model bridges.CSU Channel Islands hosted the Engineering and Design Careers Pathway Academy in July. The three-week long program put about 30 students from a local high school in a course that was constructed using curriculum provided by the engineering program at Johns Hopkins University. The hands-on learning activities included launching rockets after using a computer program to determine how high they would go and building model bridges and testing which design is the strongest. The program was free for students thanks to a collaboration of sponsors including the Ventura County Office of Education, California Lutheran University, UC Santa Barbara and the Ventura County Community College District.

It’s Rocket Science
From meeting astronauts, to building and launching real rockets, these campuses’ partnerships with NASA take engineering to new heights.

The Girls Summer Engineering Experience (Girls SEE) at Fresno State helps young women in high school learn about opportunities in engineering and construction management. The camp is hosted by faculty in the Lyles College of Engineering to showcase its programs in electrical, civil, computer, geomatics and mechanical engineering and construction management. Besides the activities on campus in daily sessions, participants tour the Grundfos pump-manufacturing plant in Fresno and visit the Clovis Water Reuse Facility. At this year's event, two women engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena spoke to the girls about benefits and opportunities available in engineering fields.

A camper launches a model rocket at CSUB's NASA campUsing curriculum provided by NASA, teachers from a local school district, CSU Bakersfield students training to become teachers, and CSUB faculty taught some local sixth graders about rocket science. The NASA camp was a collaborative project between CSUB and the school district, which was funded by an institute partnering with the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The students spent two weeks doing hands-on activities, including building, testing and launching model rockets.

The Engineering Girls Internship at Long Beach State was designed to promote young girls’ interest in pursuing careers in STEM. Ten girls from an application pool of more than 70 were selected to take part in the hands-on project, which incorporates NASA educational content. The program introduces them to the important work done by professional engineers and scientists in space exploration, air traffic safety and scientific research.

Thanks to the CSU, a generation of young Californians is learning that sciences go beyond the laboratory. CSU summer camps serve to spark interest in the sciences. For many, the spark will ignite the pursuit of a degree and a career in STEM fields, creating California’s next inventors, engineers, scientists and other experts—vital for the state’s 21st century workforce.