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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program is hosting 52 students from the Bering Strait School District at its April Middle School Academy. Aimed at developing an early interest in science, engineering, technology and math, Middle School Academies create hands-on learning opportunities for students, such as the windmill challenge, that demonstrate how a degree in STEM could be applied to a career within their local communities.
Throughout the two-week, all-expenses-paid residential component, students participate in several learning activities focused on team building, critical thinking and creativity. Led by ANSEP staff, the students competed in a windmill challenge on Monday, April 30, that taught students how wind turbines work to capture energy and convert it to usable mechanical energy. Using limited materials within a designated timeframe, the students competed to build windmills capable of lifting heavy objects. The 52 students chosen to participate are from 14 rural Alaska communities:
Middle School Academies teach students what it is like to work as a scientist or engineer and demonstrate the role STEM education plays in their everyday lives. By exposing students to the college lifestyle at an early age, ANSEP provides students with the confidence and resources needed to create long-term career plans that include higher education. An additional incentive of the component is the computer build activity. To further promote enthusiasm for STEM education and provide an opportunity to continue their studies after the component, students who remain on track to complete Algebra 1 before high school can keep the computers they build during Middle School Academy.
“Many students view math and science simply as subjects you learn in school. Activities like the windmill challenge at ANSEP help students understand how STEM impacts their everyday lives – like windmills that power communities or plumbing systems that provide clean water,” said ANSEP Founder and Vice Provost Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder. “Our goal is to help students realize that with hard work and a college education, they can be the scientists or engineers bringing these services to their communities.”
ANSEP creates opportunities for students from across Alaska to access STEM education and places them on the fast track to a career in these areas. From the middle school level to college and post-graduate programs, ANSEP is systematically improving the hiring patterns of minorities across Alaska.