LAKELAND, Fla. – For the first time, dozens of Polk County high school students will be staying in the residence halls at Florida Polytechnic University and learning from its faculty while attending the Summer STEAM Boot Camp, designed for first-generation college and underrepresented minorities.
About 30 students will participate in the intense, week-long camp organized by Florida Poly in partnership with Polk State College, starting on Tuesday, May 29.
The main goal is to provide disadvantaged students the chance to gain hands-on experience in STEAM (science, engineering, mathematics, arts, and technology) disciplines through a combination of workshops, experiments and field activities in an environment that is engaging, supportive and enriching.
According to organizers, the program was created because not enough youth has access to quality STEAM learning opportunities and there is a very low representation of first-generation students and minorities working in these fields.
“We want to show these students the possibilities of what they can do with STEM disciplines,” said Dr. Abigail Bowers, professor of Mathematics and one of the organizers. “It’s important to create that spark of interest in them through fun activities with real-life application.”
Bowers is one of five Florida Poly professors who will teach at the camp and lead the hands-on sessions working together with 10 undergraduate students and three lab technicians. These sessions include building a robot, studying the science behind roller coasters, experiencing 3D printing and designing smart agriculture models, among other activities.
“I’m very excited to participate. I’m passionate about inspiring young ones to go into STEM fields and discover their full potential,” said Bowers.
This year’s Summer Boot Camp is a pilot program, as Florida Poly looks to expand it into a permanent outreach effort. The university plans to request legislative funds to continue the program year after year, as a series of one-week experiences for underserved high school students.
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