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Girls STEM Academy, LSMAMP participants experience the excitement of science

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During the summer Girls STEM Academy and the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliances for Minority Participation program, students experienced virtual reality and were taught 3D modeling. They used shapes and lines to create architectural designs in the Center for Innovation. Center student ambassador Zacchaus Simmons described the young students as “the next innovators of the world.” (Photos by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

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In an effort to bolster interest in STEM, the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) invited 15 female and male students to participate in the annual summer Girls STEM Academy and the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliances for Minority Participation (LSMAMP) program.

Dr. Martha Tchounwou, director of Student Support Services in CSET, described this year’s program a success after a previous setback caused by the pandemic. Students, many of whom will become future JSU Tigers, traveled from as far as Washington, D.C. Others represented nearby areas such as Madison and Clinton. While some of the students were 10th-graders, nearly half were seniors in the LSMAMP program.

“This year, the students got a chance to get out and have fun learning science, chemistry, math, biology, physics, computer science, engineering and coding.” Tchounwou also said participants used their newly acquired skills to learn, build and show, for example, how traffic lights work. “I’m so proud of all they’ve accomplished.”

Hilliard Lackey V, 18, participated in the summer STEM program. He credited JSU for introducing him to various STEM subjects and peers from throughout the state. He was able to indulge in virtual reality and 3D design. (Photo by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

Hilliard Lackey V, 18, participated in the summer STEM program. He credited JSU for introducing him to various STEM subjects and to peers from throughout Mississippi and beyond. He was able to indulge in virtual reality and 3D design. (Photo by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

CSET student counselors helped the students with academic and life skills that included Girls Talk, a session that allowed them to “address topics they don’t normally discuss,” said Jaidyn Thomas of Dallas, a sophomore computer science major.

Thomas said the summer program provides a jumpstart as participants prepare to further their education. “Students in the Girls STEM Academy are learning physics, engineering, ACT Prep and Calculus that’s going to prepare them later in high school and college.”

She said the program has been beneficial to her as well. “I’m learning how to communicate with older girls and how to work with people around my age.”

Another counselor, graduate student Hervey Tchounwou, helped students in his engineering field. “A lot of these high school students have not been exposed to some of the things they’re learning in this program. We just teach them the basic fundamentals; we want to make the coursework fun and enjoyable.” He said it’s important for African Americans, in general, but specifically urged women to embrace STEM because of a national shortage to fill future jobs.

Meanwhile, Martha Tchounwou, mother of Hervey, said she foresees the program growing. She wants others to realize the importance and urgency of women in STEM. The summer Girls STEM program is available to rising  10th graders who are interested in science.

“We have a minority shortage. The more girls that we have in science will mean the future will reflect everybody. We’re excited we’re able to introduce them to STEM.”

Both programs are funded by the National Science Foundation. Support is also provided by Nissan and JSU. Like the Girls STEM Academy, LSMAMP desires to increase the quality and quantity of students successfully completing baccalaureate degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. LSMAMP also aims to help young people matriculate into graduate study programs.