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Middle School Girls Take an Adventure in STEM at CURENT

June 10th, 2013

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Solar houses, microbial leaf prints, and disease modeling games probably aren't on your typical summer camp itinerary. Then again, Adventures in STEM isn't your typical summer camp, either. The program, which is in its second year at CURENT, brought twenty middle school girls from all around the state to the University of Tennessee for a week filled with science, technology, mathematics, and engineering projects.

Students worked with CURENT, the National Institute of Mathematical & Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), and Tennessee 4-H throughout the week. Each department brought hands-on activities and group projects into the classroom so that the girls could explore a range of STEM-related fields and professions. The girls in the program also had the opportunity to meet and interview engineering, math, and biology researchers and students at UT.

"Youth involved in 4-H learn by doing, and this fit well into the objectives of the program," said Daniel Sarver, an Extension Specialist with 4-H. "The girls learned how living things live together in our complex, yet fascinating, natural world."

The girls took a break during the middle of the week to get some of the "UT Experience" as part of a field trip activity. The day started bright and early at Second Creek, where Dr. Michael McKinney, UT's Director of Environmental Studies, talked to the group about their impact on natural resources. The girls then took a ride on the new "T" campus buses all the way to the Ag Campus, where they explored the UT Gardens, UT's Living Light Solar House, and a tour of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Small and Large Animal Clinics, led by Professor John New. After lunch at the Ag Campus, the group wrapped up their tour with a look inside Dr. Lynne Parker's Distributed Intelligence Lab.

At the end of the week, the future scientists put all their notes and experiences to use by making posters and presenting their projects to family, faculty, and staff at an open house session.

The Adventures in STEM summer program is part of CURENT's mission to engage students from an early age in STEM-related fields, especially engineering. This year's participants came primarily from East Tennessee, with a handful of girls from the middle region of the state as well.

"We hope some of the activities this week captured the imagination of these smart girls and inspired them to pursue STEM some day," said Kelly Sturner, the Education and Outreach Coordinator for NIMBioS.

The program was organized by Dr. Chien-fei Chen, Erin Wills, and Adam Hardebeck from CURENT; Kelly Sturner and Dr. Suzanne Lenhart from NIMBioS; and Daniel Sarver and Dr. Jennifer DeBruyn from 4-H. CURENT-Logo_Transparent-tiny.png