The Heights

Updated: May 23, 2016


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STEM Summer Camps provide hands-on approach to learning

In many high schools, a class in science or engineering starts with reading from the textbook and finishes with a lab exercise from the textbook. But at the Foothill College STEM Summer Camps, students build robotic hands, investigate crime scenes, and fly remote-control hovercrafts, all in the name of education.

Using socially relevant, hands-on methods of teaching and learning, the STEM Summer Camps encourage students to pursue STEM studies, and provide them with the support they need to succeed. In fact, Foothill College's STEM summer camps are designed for underrepresented groups in science fields, including women. While comparable Bay Area summer camps are charging thousands of dollars a week, the weeklong programs at Foothill are only $200 and come with breakfast and lunch.

"In my career, there were maybe three, four girls in an electrical engineering class," said Oxana Pantchenko, Director of the Foothill College Science Learning Institute (SLI), who is coordinating the STEM summer camps. "When they come into a classroom full of boys, it could be frightening. This is what this camp is about - showing them it's possible and it's not difficult."

In last year’s robotics session, students were challenged to build and program a robot that could travel by itself through a cardboard maze. On the first day of camp, most robots just sat at the entrance of the maze, ramming helplessly into walls or spinning uncontrollably. By the end of the week, the robot was whizzing through the maze without so much as grazing the walls.

The camps are only one piece of the program Foothill College advances via its Science Learning Institute (SLI). Under the SLI umbrella, the college is undertaking a major push to increase STEM literacy and the number of STEM graduates by engaging the large and untapped talent pool of female and underrepresented students.

The campus is open to middle and high school students. Five sessions will be offered this summer, beginning Monday, June 20, in subjects ranging from 3D Modeling and Printing to Amusement Park Physics. For more information and to register, visit foothill.edu/sli. Scholarships are available for students from low-income families.

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