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STEM camp at LU has environmental slant, renowned scientist teacher

Young people will learn 21st century STEM skills and work with a renowned scientist at a Lamar University 
Dr. Way at STEM Camp
Dr. Way teaching at LU STEM camp.
summer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) camp.

In collaboration with community partners, Lamar University is offering the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, June 10-20, free for seventh graders who excel in math and science.

On June 13 at noon, Texas A&M University Entomologist Dr. Michael Orrin “Mo” Way, renowned globally for his work with rice farmers, will present to the campers in anticipation of their research in a rice field the following day.

“We’ll immerse campers in curriculum one day and then the next day, they’ll spend the entire day at the Rice Research Center in the field,” said Urbina. “For 80 percent of the time they’ll be outside where they are all hands on, looking at the rice and sorghum and doing real research with real researchers.”

The Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps (BHSSC) have been funded at Lamar University for the past twelve years and is one of only 10 of the camps available across the nation. Otilia Urbina, executive director of the BHSSC camp and two other LU STEM camps – the gO Women for Engineering, Science and Technology Academy and the gOlden Opportunities for Southeast Texas Construction Career Academy for Women – said the camps are offered in hopes young people will consider careers in STEM fields.

“The purpose of STEM summer camps is to provide students with best practice, inquiry-based, real-world, hands-on activities to determine whether our ‘grow-you-own’ pipeline inspires young students at an early age to enter STEM-based careers,” said Urbina. “We hope through their experience in the summer camp, these young people feel 10 feet tall and dare to dream.”

Lamar University’s STEM camps are designed to inspire high-achieving mathematics and science middle school students to pursue STEM-related careers, which will increase the number of STEM college graduates in Southeast Texas. The belief among educators is the earlier the better.

“Early exposure to positive STEM experiences that provide lasting impressions can inspire students to pursue STEM careers,” said Urbina.

All camps are based on national standards for STEM and the latest skills in the industry. “Lamar University offers the BHSSC camp through a grant awarded after an application and rigorous evaluation process,” said Urbina.

The camps also have a theme supported by hands-on activities. This year’s BHSSC camp theme is “Biodiversity: The Spice of Life.”

“Biodiversity is the spice of life,” especially here where we are surrounded by industry and refineries,” said Urbina. “We have to become stewards of the environment – coastlines, rivers and lakes - because if we don’t, we’re going to lose what we have.”

LU has partnered with venues that will provide excursions complementary to the camp’s theme. One partner is Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in Orange, which is situated in the middle of the Cypress-Tupelo swamp adjacent to Adams Bayou and offers a unique and interactive way to explore the fascinating world of nature.

Another partner is The Big Thicket National Preserve in Kountze where camp participants will engage in a wide range of core curriculum-based interdisciplinary conservation and environmental educational programs that emphasize wildlife and the environment.

Texas A&M AgriLIFE Research Center at Beaumont will also provide a wide range of real-world, hands-on activities but with an emphasis on soil and crop nutrition; crop, weed and water management; varietal improvement; and entomology.

During the two-week camp, participants will have lessons not only in the environment and conservation as it relates to science and engineering but also robotics, nutrition, team research, technology and more.