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NDSU hosts academic enrichment program, STEM Kids


From building bridges, launching water bottle rockets and programming robots to compounding lotion and concocting bubble gum – for a few days in June, area fourth, fifth and sixth grade students got to have fun learning at NDSU’s annual summer enrichment program, STEM Kids.

The program offers a variety of hand-on projects to spur interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

Participants choose from a wide range of courses led by NDSU faculty, staff and graduate students. Students can visit the materials lab and play with computer software in the “Construction Materials” course. They can learn about forensic science techniques by performing laboratory tests in “Crime Busters” or use Lego Education kits to learn about gears, pulleys, levers, linkages and pneumatics in “Gear Heads.” They can dissect the role of ingredients in foods such as ice cream, gum, Jell-O in “Food Detectives” or use Lego Mindstorms platform to program a robot to perform tasks, overcome challenges and maneuver through obstacles in “Robot Rumble.”

“The whole point is to engage kids in enrichment activities that are not only fun, but also are valuable learning experiences and give them opportunities to see applications of STEM fields. It encourages them to look at the world around them and see the math and see the science in it,” said Kim McVicar, who works for the Center for Science and Math Education and is a co-director of STEM Kids along with Nancy Rossland from the College of Engineering and Architecture.

The program targets children in fourth through sixth grade. McVicar says it is an optimal window to pique students’ interests. “It is critical to get kids engaged before middle school in STEM disciplines,” McVicar said. “If they lose interest by middle school, you can’t get them back. In this targeted age range, kids are curious and excited.”

McVicar says academic summer programs for younger students are sparse. “There are lots of sports and recreation summer camps, but enrichment camps are few and far between.”

She feels it is important for NDSU to fill the void by reaching out to the k-12 community. “The university has a responsibility to be a leader and to provide opportunities. It shows how NDSU wants to be connected to the community and is reaching out to students, parents and schools.”

The program has grown from 30 participants in 2006, when it was known as Science and Math Adventures for Kids (SMAK), to around 70 participants today.

“This has been a really exciting year, to see the growth and see the interest and to have established ourselves,” McVicar said. I’ve been getting emails from some really supportive parents who love it and they are so excited.”

And it’s a lot of fun for the students too.

Ava Kistner, participated in a session called “Mathematical Magic,” where students learn tricks for adding and multiplying large numbers, and also explore graph theory, geometry, number theory and game theory. “I just like when I have to figure out all of the stuff and use different things,” Kistner said. She said she would recommend STEM Kids to her friends. “It’s fun and, if you’re interested in math, it’s the place to go.”

Two sessions of STEM Kids were offered this summer June 13-16 and June 20-23. The activities took place on NDSU’s campus from 9 a.m. to noon each day. Students enroll in one course per session.

The program is housed in the Center for Science and Math and is assisted by the College of Engineering and Architecture. For more information on STEM Kids, contact Kim McVicar at 1-7336 or or Nancy Rossland at 1-7994 or


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North Dakota State University
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Last Updated: Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:33:23 AM