Eastern Michigan University’s Digital Divas and Digital Dudes program, the Mr. October Foundation, and GameAbove have partnered together to create an after-school virtual science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program for middle school students in southeastern Michigan.
The program will allow students to learn about the STEM fields, classes, and careers through after school and hands-on experiments and projects. According to the university, topics covered by the program will include, "healthcare, physics, HVAC, construction, wind power, hydroponics,“ along with others.
The four year program has students involved twice a week, two hours each day, for their eighth grade year with annual summer camps leading up to their senior year of high school. Selected students will be able to participate in the summer camp at no cost for each of the four years they are in high school.
“The idea was to give kids from middle school a head start on knowing this information so they know . . . [about futures in] technology and computer science,“ said Bia Hamed EMU’s Director of K-12 Outreach for the College of Engineering and Technology. "The hope is that once they start high school, that they will have a path in mind and to understand what people in these fields do."
Four schools in southeastern Michigan, Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hope Academy, Salina Intermediate School, and MacArthur K-8 University Academy, schools in Oakland and Wayne counties, have joined their students in the program. According to EMU, 125 middle school students take part in the program.
Teachers from the four schools have been trained and given a 14 unit curriculum to teach their students. “The game keeps changing here for teachers so we’re flexible and able to accommodate anything that is thrown at us so we’re doing well,” said Dr. Al Gomez, Executive Director of the Mr. October Foundation.
Each unit, the students receive a kit with the materials needed to complete their project that will be started during the meeting and completed on their own time. “They already have built their own operation game to learn about circuits and wiring to make their own games,“ Hamed said. "Currently they are building their own speaker for their cell phone or computers.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is currently being held through zoom. “We’re really balancing these students with hands-on skill building activities that really keeps them connected to their learning and the school while they’re at home,” Gomez said.
Since school life has looked different this year for everyone, this program keeps the students engaged in learning outside the classroom while they are at home.