WSU and Department of Defense STEM K-12 Saturdays and summer camps are going virtual again
K-12 students from across Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, and from across the U.S. are participating in a year-long virtual STEM program launched in partnership by the Department of Defense (DoD) and Wayne State University. Held on site at several Tribal Nation and Indian Reservation locations as annual summer camps in its first 11 years, the program moved to a virtual setting in 2020, where DoD and civilian STEM professionals and educators engaged virtually with students from tribal communities across the nation. In an effort to provide impactful STEM opportunities and experiences accessible to historically marginalized populations, the program features "STEM talks" designed to give students the chance to connect with distinguished STEM professionals representative of organizations and institutions of higher learning around the country. Included in these talks are leaders from JROTC high school programs such as the U.S. Army JROTC at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.
The response to the change to virtual last year was so enthusiastic that the team decided to adapt it to launch a new 12-month program which began in September. The year-long program, DoD STEM K-12 Saturdays, will culminate with 2021 summer camps, offering one Saturday session per month from September 2020 to May 2021. The sessions will remain virtual, even if a return to in-person becomes possible.
The DoD has cooperatively promoted K-12 STEM engagement for more than 50 years at Wayne State through its partnership in programs such as the Junior Science & Humanities Symposium, and the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). The U.S. Army Development Command (DEVCOM) Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) located in Warren, Michigan and DoD STEM K-12 headquarters in Washington, D.C. are emphasizing teaching of STEM K-12 subject matter to American K-12 students all over the country and around the world. With this charge, GVSC has worked closely with other federal agency partners to promote K-12 STEM education. The Office of the Secretary of Defense also provides funding for professional STEM K-12 teacher development and training of DoD STEM K-12 teachers across multiple regional and national programs. It is forecasted that these joint efforts will help to increase the STEM professional workforce.
Each Saturday program follows the format of previous summer camp sessions, scheduled between 1:00 – 4:00 p.m., and providing STEM-focused lessons and talks from STEM educators and professionals. Each Saturday learning session has included instruction and activities led by DoD STEM K-12 teachers, and features presenters from Wayne State University, Harvard, City College of New York, NASA, NOAA, University of Windsor, Michigan Technological University, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Department of Natural Resources, and the Isle Royale Institute.
Current educators leading sessions include:
- Grayling Mercer, Hoffman Planetarium Director: high school Physics and Astronomy | Oak Park
- Nicole Ames-Powel: Mathematics at Carver STEM Academy | Detroit
- Michael Frantsen: Technology at Plymouth Canton Community Schools | Plymouth/Canton
Other participating presenters and partners include:
- Tuskegee University
- Bay Mills Indian Community | Ojibwa Tribe
- Hannahville Tribe
- Sault Tribe
- Lac Vieux Desert Tribe
- Pokagon Band
- Chickasaw Tribe
The DoD STEM K-12 program originated eleven years ago hosting summer camps and other high impact in-person experiences conducted by the U.S. Army DEVCOM GVSC. Greg Chappelle is the U.S. Army Great Lakes Region and Tribal Nations DoD STEM Coordinator and Historically Black Colleges & Universities and Minority Institutions Liaison Officer who has grown DOD’s long-standing relationship with the university and Tribal Nations to launch the new year-long STEM immersion program. Since 2010 Chappelle has worked with Aaron Tadgerson, Native/DoD Liaison from Bay Mills Indian Community in Brimley, MI, to ensure sustainability by securing funds to bring countless STEM K-12 educational programs within Tribal and public K-12 school systems.
The secure WSU Zoom platform is coordinated by program team members Dr. Sandra Yarema, Director of Undergraduate Studies & Teacher Certification Programs in the College of Education, and April Hines-Jenkins, School Leader at Cesar Chavez Academy and doctoral student in the College of Education. The program team received initial support from the Office of the Provost in converting experiences to a virtual space, with help from Theresa Ramirez-Zipser, STEM engagement coordinator on the Inclusive Workforce Development and STEM Innovation Learning Center team.
Through this partnership, Wayne State can provide increased exposure to STEM-careers and learning for underserved and underrepresented K-12 Tribal Nations students across Michigan and beyond. Registration for the 12-month program remains open to new registrants meeting the criteria, and the remaining Saturday sessions will occur in April and May. Students in grades 6 through 9 from Tribal Nations may be registered to attend the remaining sessions. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request the registration form.