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Monday, September 14, 2015

Emporia State University collaborates with Flint Hills Technical School to "Energize" Students in the rural Flint Hills region of Kansas

Students creating battery circuits
      “Energizing Students” was another successful program funded by a Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity grant awarded to Dr. Betsy Yanik, the Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Emporia State University (ESU). Over last spring and this summer, she partnered with faculty at Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC) to create a series of fun, interactive STEM activities specifically targeting the Hispanic youth in the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The main components of the program were two “STEM Day” Saturday workshops, April 4th at ESU and May 8th at FHTC, and a five day summer day camp, June 13-18th, offered jointly by ESU and FHTC.
Students taking measurements
      The Saturday celebrations of "STEM Day" consisted of energy science themed interactive exercises. At the ESU "STEM Day" event on April 4, 2015, eighteen middle school students participated in four hands-on sessions: Induction and the Physics of Motors, Energize your Problem Solving, What is Energy? and Mathematical Modeling.  On the May 8, 2015 "STEM Day" at FHTC, over 300 eighth grade students rotated through 10 learning stations sponsored by the STEM related programs and courses offered at the Technical College.   During the summer camp held at locations on both campuses, sixteen middle school students participated in seminars featuring heat transfer projects, fluid flow activities, electromagnetic induction, small windmill generator construction, analysis of data using a graphing calculator and solar energy ventures. Participants were also invited to tour the WESTAR natural gas plant and the Wolf Creek Nuclear Corporation.
Students in an instructional session and visiting WESTAR Natural Gas.
      The objectives of the program as a whole were to increase Hispanic students’ interest in science and mathematics; to foster awareness of career opportunities in mathematics and science-related fields; and provide Hispanic students with an opportunity to meet and form personal contacts with professionals working in mathematics and science-related careers.  The expected learning outcomes that students to see the value of looking at situations using quantitative skills and scientific inquiry was achieved. All three programs combined to reach 354 middle school students in the Flint Hills area of Kansas of which approximately 45% of the participants were classified as underrepresented minorities.
      Although the program created a great collaborative effort for both the Flint Hills Technical College and Emporia State University, future funding will determine whether or not the program can continue.  As for now, there are plans to possibly incorporate some of the Get Into Energy activities into the already established ESU summer STEM camp for Hispanic students which has enough other funding to continue.

Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity Grants focus on encouraging the next generation of Kansas student to consider STEM careers in the areas of climate or energy research or atomic, molecular and optical science and are designed to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Kansas.