KSU Summer Science Academy inspires budding scientists
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Middle and high school students learn lab techniques, conduct experiments
KENNESAW, Ga. — Metro Atlanta middle and high school students donned white lab coats, conducted experiments and waited eagerly for results this summer at Kennesaw State University’s Summer Science Academy.
At the academy 20 high school and 25 middle school students were introduced to basic techniques in biology, biotechnology, computer simulation and visualization technology.
“The academy is designed to prepare the students for the rigors of college-level studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),” said Army Lester, a professor of biology and the director of the program.
Participation in the academy is free for students. It is funded with grants from the Georgia Space Consortium-NASA and the National Science Foundation/Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation. The Department of Biology and Physics provided materials and supplies.
Kennesaw State undergraduates, known as STEM Scholars, worked with the students. The middle schoolers learned basic science and math concepts in simulations designed to get them excited about the subjects at an early age. The high school curriculum targeted high-achieving students who are interested in STEM subjects and intend to take advanced placement courses. The academy exposed them to laboratory techniques and developed their research skills.
For many, it was an eye-opening experience. “You have to be careful, so that you don’t contaminate your material,” said Genora Littlejohn, 14. “It’s been a fun experience. I’ve learned a lot of new things.”
Juan Mora, who obtained his master’s in teaching science at Kennesaw State in 2011, serves as the liaison between Kennesaw State and the Cobb County School District. He writes the curriculum for the Summer Science Academy and hopes to pass on the excitement to the next generation of science scholars.
“I’m a science nerd. I just fell in love with biology. It’s amazing,” said Mora, who teaches biology at South Cobb High School. “Once I started learning about biology, there was a moment when I realized that every organism — plants, bacteria, humans — we are all the same in the sense that we make the same stuff. The proteins that we make are coded with the same code.”
Getting students excited and interested in the fields at an early age is crucial for the U.S. According to international surveys, the nation lags behind China and India in math and science, said Premila Achar, an associate professor of biology and co-director of the program.
The Summer Science Academy also helps Kennesaw State’s STEM Scholars develop their leadership and mentoring skills, which are essential for today’s marketplace. “The program creates a unique relationship between pre-college and college students,” Achar said.
Sarah North, an assistant professor in computer science and outreach coordinator of the academy, said she hopes to involve as many of Kennesaw State’s STEM Scholars as possible in the program.