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Looking Back on a Summer of Outreach

students using k'nex during summer outreach in engineering

Parks College hosted and participated in several engineering outreach programs for high school students this summer.

This summer, Parks College faculty, students and staff engaged with more than 65 high school-aged students through three different summer engineering programs: the Virtual Robotics Summer Academy, the Virtual Engineering Exploration Experience, and the Forward Through Ferguson Summer Math Initiative.

From June 28-July 2, SLU’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Programs hosted the Virtual Robotics Summer Academy, a week-long camp that taught 24 campers to construct their own robots in real time from the comfort of their homes.  Robotics campers included rising 9th-12th graders from the St. Louis area and beyond, including Ohio, Texas and Illinois.  Also participating in the week was a cohort of students from Gateway GIS, a St. Louis-based nonprofit organization focused on exposing students to opportunities in geospatial fields.  Campers were each shipped their own Arduino robotics kit ahead of the program, then logged in each day of camp to build alongside instruction from Drs. Kyle Mitchell, Will Ebel and Mike Swartwout.  At the end of the week, every camper had their own personal robot to keep.  Of the week, Dr. Mitchell said, “we were pleased to be able to host the Virtual Robotics Academy again this year.  We are always impressed with the enthusiasm and dedication that campers bring to the week, even through Zoom, and this group was no different. The completion of the robots in one week is always an emotional roller coaster ending on a very high note, and this year was no exception. The camp is always a highlight of our summers.”  This was the second year the Robotics Summer Academy was offered in a virtual format.

In mid-July, Parks College hosted another virtual camp week.  More than 35 high school-aged students from across the United States logged in four hours daily for the Virtual Engineering Exploration Experience, a new virtual summer program offered as an alternative to an on-campus program.  The week’s programming explored the various disciplines of engineering and highlighted several career paths within each field.  Campers heard from industry professionals about their work, participated in at-home activities led by Parks College engineering faculty, and met with current SLU students during the summer program.  At the end of the week, groups of campers virtually presented about a career path they’d researched during the camp.  The Virtual Engineering Exploration Experience was made possible through sponsorship from Boeing, Alberici Constructors and Nooter/Eriksen.

To round out the summer outreach season, several SLU engineering faculty hosted activities and teaching modules during the Forward Through Ferguson Math Initiative, a new collaborative program hosted by the Ferguson-Florissant School District and Saint Louis University.  Engineering faculty members including Drs. Jalil Kianfar, Scott Sell, and Ray LeBeau traveled to McCluer North High School the week of July 19-23, to lead hands-on activities that made math concepts, including geometry, algebra and trigonometry, tangible concepts for the students.  Two SLU flight instructors, Donny Schmidt and Jack Schwarz, and Computer Science faculty member, Michael Goldwasser, also led modules during the camp week.  Ryan Wilson, camp director and Program Coordinator for SLU’s School of Education said of the week, “The students of Ferguson-Florissant were excited to be involved with the week-long program. They were eager to ask questions about life at college and SLU. But the best part was getting to collaborate with other colleges within SLU to support high school students within the St. Louis Community”.  This was the pilot year for the Forward Through Ferguson Math Initiative, with the goal for program growth in the coming years.

Though the 2021 summer season presented new challenges, the faculty, students and staff of Parks College found new and exciting ways to connect with high school students and share the opportunities in engineering.

Information about the summer 2022 camp season will be posted in December 2021 at  Opportunities will be available for rising 9th-12th grade students.