Providing youths with the opportunity to engage in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math projects at camp is the goal behind the new West Virginia University STEM Ambassadors program.
The STEM Ambassadors are a group of 11 WVU students majoring in fields such as animal sciences, forensics, health sciences and engineering. This summer, under the direction of WVU Extension Service 4-H faculty, they will divide and conquer STEM-based activity education offering more than 1,530 hours of STEM programming at 27 4-H camps and University events across the state.
STEM activities include projects like Lego Robotics, DNA testing and bridge building.
“Summer camp is about more than swimming and S’mores,” said Debbie McDonald, WVU Extension Service 4-H program director. “Our camp programs help kids determine who they are, what skills they have and what they might want to be when they grow up.”
Farrah El-Khatib, an exercise physiology major from Hurricane, said the Ambassadors program will help her to deliver new opportunities to kids who might not otherwise be exposed to STEM education.
“In West Virginia we have some areas of the state where students don’t have as much access to science equipment or technology as other areas do,” El-Khatib said. “This program helps give those kids access to technology and teaches them how they can use it in their everyday lives. It might even help them discover what career path they might want to take at a young age.”
McDonald said having college students deliver the STEM education is crucial to the success and impact on the campers.
“Our campers enjoy having that connection to a college student. They like to hear about what classes they should take and it’s like to be on campus,” McDonald said. “These students are more than just ambassadors; they’re role models and mentors for the youths they serve.”
In return for their work, each STEM ambassador receives a $2,500 stipend provided by their sponsoring college or program.
“This program is an example of WVU’s land-grant university mission in action,” said Steve Bonanno, interim director of the WVU Extension Service. “We’ve paired WVU Extension’s nationally recognized 4-H camping program with the teaching and research efforts of our WVU colleges to provide educational activities across the state.”
Along with El-Khatib, an exercise physiology major from Hurricane, W.Va., the ambassadors are: Nicole Audette, an engineering major from Beaver, W.Va.; Kathleen Baker, a computer science and women’s studies major from Morgantown, W.Va.; Enze Bond, a chemistry major from Bridgeport, W.Va.; Adam James
a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Crawford, W.Va.; J.R. Liggett, a School of Medicine student who graduated with a degree in animal and nutrition sciences in May, from Huttonsville, W.Va.; Betzaida Maldonado, who graduated with degrees in forensics and psychology in May, from of Greeley, Col.; Adam Paul, a physics major from Wheeling, W.Va.; Randy Ratcliff, a chemistry and biology major from Kingwood, W.Va.; Daniel Segessenman, a geology major from Littlestown, Pa.; Karen Sommers an animal and nutrition sciences major from St. Clairsville, Ohio.
The STEM Ambassadors program is made possible through collaborations with WVU Extension Service; Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources; Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design; Eberly College of Arts and Sciences; and the WVU Health Sciences Center.
To see if STEM programming is offered at your county’s 4-H Camp, contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service. To learn more about 4-H programs, visit www.4-hyd.ext.wvu.edu.
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