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Penn State Fayette Faculty to Instruct High School Students During STEM Camps

Dr. Andrzej Gapinski
Dr. Andrzej Gapinski, associate professor of engineering at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, is pictured at Connellsville High School June 2 explaining the design of an electromagnetic relay to a class of sophomores as part of a STEM camp.
5/9/2014 —

In a novel effort to interest more high school students in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), the Connellsville Area School District will bring faculty members from Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, to instruct each of its more than 1,400 high school students over the next month.

This unique plan reverses the logistics of traditional STEM camp programs, which are often held on college campuses over summer vacation. Penn State Fayette, in partnership with Chevron, has hosted such camps. But for this month’s Connellsville program, rather than having the students travel to the instructors, the instructors will travel to the students.

Nancy Tsupros, STEM curriculum specialist for Intermediate Unit 1 (IU1), is coordinating the Connellsville STEM camp. She said that each year her office typically organizes several STEM camps for students in grades three through eight, including one last year for the Connellsville Area School District.

Connellsville’s Director of Curriculum K-12/Federal Programs Dr. Tammy Stern said that she received “tremendous feedback” from students and parents on last summer’s STEM camp, so she asked IU1 to coordinate a similar program—but with a twist: Dr. Stern wanted every child at the high school to have some exposure to all the STEM areas.

“When we got this request,” said Ms. Tsupros, “we contacted Penn State Fayette to ask if they might want to partner in this initiative, and as a result we have Penn State faculty members going to the high school on four days.”

Penn State Fayette Director of Continuing Education Joseph Segilia, who is coordinating the Connellsville STEM project, said that his office will be sending 16 faculty members to Connellsville High School on four days over the next month. May 15 will be for seniors, May 30 for juniors, June 2 for sophomores, and June 3 for freshmen. Faculty from each of four academic areas (science, math, technology, and engineering) will teach groups of 25 students during 75-minute classes.

According to Mr. Segilia, benefits of this plan are not only the exposure that students will have to the STEM areas but also to a variety of college instructors. He said, “Each child in that school will get a taste of each area for one-hour-and-15-minute classes taught by a Penn State Fayette faculty member. Each group will get different teachers. All these kids are going to have the opportunity to see a Penn State professor teaching a topic, but they won’t all see the same people.”

Instructors have flexibility in the design of their classes. Ms. Tsupros said that IU1 representatives met with Penn State Fayette faculty and told them they could do any sort of 75-minute program that might showcase their own STEM area.

The goal is to make the classes as hands-on as possible, according to Mr. Segilia, so that “even a child who does not have the breadth of knowledge in a science area might still see what could happen in a positive way in a science experiment.” He added, “This is a career awareness day to help high school students understand science, technology, engineering and math opportunities.”

Students will also be exposed to Penn State Fayette as a close-to-home choice for a higher education. “I think it’s a resource that a lot of people overlook or aren’t aware of,” said Ms. Tsupros.

Dr. Stern said that having Penn State Fayette professors at the high school benefits the school district and its students in a number of ways, including such practical considerations as avoiding transportation costs and issues. But the primary benefit will, of course, be to Connellsville’s high school students.

“Our goal in providing STEM-related activities to all of our students is for the student to understand how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are interrelated,” Dr. Stern said. “Hopefully,” she continued, “they will also see the relevance in the activities and become exposed to various STEM-related careers and potential opportunities.”

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