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Summer of STEM Camps at OSU-Tulsa inspire future STEM professionals

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Media Contact: Aaron Campbell | OSU-Tulsa Communications Coordinator | 918-594-8046 |

Shrieks of surprise and delight erupt as spray from a water bottle rocket splashes a group of kids huddled under a tree near Oklahoma State University-Tulsa’s campus flagpoles. Their cheers turn to awe and eyes light up when they realize the rocket’s paper outer shell has been blasted off by the force of the launch. This is more than a way to beat the summer heat for this group of elementary schoolers: this is rocket science.

Building a STEM professional pipeline

Over the summer, more than 800 Tulsa-area students in grades K-12 flocked to OSU-Tulsa to be a part of the Summer of STEM, a series of free science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camps facilitated by the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

The camps, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, taught campers problem solving and critical thinking skills through fun experiments and activities. Students learned to build Ferris wheels, grow crystals, shoot rockets, design hovercrafts and more throughout 11 different multi-day camp experiences.

“STEM camp was so fun,” said 9-year-old Cash Shore, who attended the “Engineering Adventure” camp in June. “The teachers were so nice. I got to see a sound wave and learn how to make a lava lamp and rocket. It was a blast.”

The “Engineering Adventure” camp – divided into grades K-2 and 3-5 – introduced simple STEM concepts with eye-popping demonstrations and fun activities to spark an early interest in STEM fields.

“With the Summer of STEM, we wanted to bring campers of all ages to the OSU-Tulsa campus and show them that not only can they do math and science, but they can have fun with it too,” said Craig Freeman, interim vice provost of OSU-Tulsa and dean of the OSU College of Professional Studies. “Studies show that early exposure to STEM increases the likelihood that a student will pursue a STEM-related career. We’re building a pipeline of future STEM professionals right here in Greenwood.”

More than summer fun

Older students explored more specific subjects, such taking a deep dive into city planning by designing and constructing building models during the “Architecture Exploration” camp or completing daily engineering challenges in the “Engineering Exploration” camp. These students received extra coaching from a group of K-12 teachers participating in a concurrent workshop to help them build the skills and knowledge necessary to teach STEM subjects.

The oldest campers spent their week looking to the future. High school students in the “Engineering Discovery” camp explored the wide variety of engineering disciplines offered at OSU by participating in hands-on activities that helped them further understand different STEM fields. These projects not only sharpened critical academic and social skills, but also introduced STEM careers to consider as the students approached high school graduation.

The camps were facilitated by OSU student volunteers, who were eager to share their love for STEM with the campers. Whether serving as mentors for the younger campers or peer role models for the teens, the presence of OSU students helped keep the mood light and the subjects relatable.

“We want these students to see themselves on a college campus and see themselves as STEM professionals,” said Freeman. “It’s important for kids from all backgrounds to have the opportunity to pursue careers that pay well in these growing fields. But they won’t see STEM careers as a possibility unless experiences like these are a regular part of their lives.

“That’s why events like the Summer of STEM are more than just fun – they’re an investment in the future.”

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