Training students to be teachers, mentors

Mobile Science and Engineering Camps expected to create ripple effect in the Umpqua Valley

The multiplier effect is expected to be in play this summer when Oregon State University and Umpqua Community College team up again for Mobile Science and Engineering Camps.

OSU Precollege Programs (PCP) will work with UCC to train UCC student instructors to carry out hands-on science and engineering activities focused on renewable energy. The OSU/UCC camps series is one of five educational projects selected recently by Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub to receive mini-grants to help create positive futures for Douglas County youth.

The joint PCP/UCC effort received $8,128 that will in effect create UCC STEM outreach ambassadors. The grant application projects that 30 students will be trained to deliver and enhance understanding in STEM subjects – potentially reaching hundreds of youth each year. In addition, local organizers hope to be able to launch their own Mobile STEM Outreach Program from this experience.

Funding supports the development of STEAM kits, to involve regional K-12 students in activities such as solar car engineering. The mini-grant covers the cost of activity kits as well as funds needed for training, travel, materials and supplies and similar direct costs.

The 2015 grant follows funding from last year that resulted in Mobile Science and Engineering Camps throughout the Umpqua Valley. In addition to getting students enthusiastic about STEM learning, the camps provided information about potential STEM careers and the required education, as well as tips on how to afford college through scholarships, financial aid and loans.

According to Kyle Cole of Oregon State University, one of the project’s organizers, K-12 students and UCC students all benefit from the PCP-UCC partnership.

“The hands-on activities aim to increase middle school students’ interest in STEM learning and careers while inspiring them to pursue higher education,” Cole said. “The activities will be used to enrich the experience of K-12 students that visit the UCC campus and, because they are portable, can be used to reach students in surrounding communities.”

UCC students apply STEM knowledge gained in their college-level classes to teach the activities to younger students.  Cole said this solidifies their own understanding of underlying concepts, which is key to their future academic success.

“The teaching experience develops a sense of mastery, as well as public speaking and leadership skills that will help them succeed in any career path,” he said.