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Summer program educates, introduces students to science and math career opportunities

Jennifer Sprouse • Jul 19, 2013 at 6:11 PM

Noah Ford, a participant in the STEMsummer 2013 program, was all smiles as he discussed science, math and the group’s visit to the East Tennessee State University Planetarium Friday morning.

“So far my favorite ... would have to be me being here, because I love sciencey stuff and the solar system. I love science and math,” Noah said.

STEMsummer 2013, is an initiative started by Michael Cummings, INSIGHT Educational Center’s CEO, and Adam Dickson, Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union community development coordinator and INSIGHT COO, designed to enhance math and science skills, while also introducing them to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers.

The program, in its pilot year, is being held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for three weeks in July. On Mondays and Wednesdays, students are in a classroom setting where they advance their math and science knowledge. On Fridays the group of around 20 students take a trip where they see for themselves how things they’ve learned in the classroom can apply in a specific career or discipline.

Dr. Gary Henson, associate professor of physics and astronomy at ETSU, was there at 10 a.m. Friday to greet the STEM students. Henson said his role was to discuss astronomy and show the students gathered in the planetarium virtual images of things they can see with the naked in the night sky.

“We can animate and give a virtual experience of being outdoors in a nice clear environment. We can actually zoom in on things like the sun and the moon and planets, anything that’s in the sky,” Henson said. “We can also animate astronomical phenomenon, to show them how stars vary in their light output, to show them ... how the solar system was formed, or even about the appearance of comets in the sky.”

Sitting underneath the dome in the darkness of the planetarium, students took part in the lecture, as Henson discussed various planets and stars.

Noah, 11, a student at Indian Trail Intermediate School, said he has enjoyed the program and feels the STEM program has helped him.

“We’ve done experiments and science and some really cool ... mathy things,” he said. “We went to Alo, which is the engineering company, and that was really interesting and fun.”

Cummings said Friday that STEMsummer came from the idea to give students a summer math and science push.

“The idea came about ... to get them more engrossed and kind of give them an injection in the arm as far as science and math are concerned, because it’s a deficiency throughout the entire country,” he said. “This is something that we’re just excited about because we’re able to give back and help those that probably would not normally be helped. We see a need and we’re jumping in and trying to fulfill that need.”

Dickson said his role as a community development coordinator with ACFCU is to find opportunities the credit union can invest in and programs that can empower the community.

“INSIGHT is one of our partners in that effort and this is just a start of many things that we’re doing particularly in the central city of Johnson City,” he said. “We see this as a workforce development project, along with education. We’re training young people to be the best and the brightest and to succeed and achieve.”

In an earlier news release from Dickson, the students –– affiliated with either the Johnson City Housing Authority or the Rise Up organization –– will have one final trip to Tri-Cities Regional Airport before a graduation ceremony on July 29. Each student who participated in the STEMsummer program will receive $100.

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