Local students take part in STEM trip

Submitted photo A group of seventh-grade students from Elkins Middle School take part in the Youth Science Discovery Experience Field Trip program recently at the National Youth Science Center near Davis. The weekend getaway included a tour of the Mount Storm power station, a visit to historic coke ovens that were part of coal production, an opportunity to build a robot, hands-on scientific experiments and other activities.

DAVIS — Eleven seventh-grade students from Elkins Middle School had a unique learning experience recently as part of a weekend getaway at the National Youth Science Center near Davis.

The Youth Science Discovery Experience Field Trip program is designed to offer science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities and STEM career opportunities. It featured a tour of the Mount Storm power station, a visit to historic coke ovens that were part of coal production, an opportunity to build a robot, hands-on scientific experiments and many more activities, said Lee Epperson, a science teacher at EMS who accompanied the students.

“They had a really good time. They all want to go back,” Epperson said. “They really enjoyed the opportunity to do something different, outside the classroom.”

EMS math teacher Mabel Howell also went on the field trip with the students, as well as parent Frances Vandevender.

Students from EMS who participated included Michael McCauley, Josh Warner, Trenton Marino, Hannah Chenoweth, Ryan Dibacco, Ashley Wolford, Maddie Cox, Izaak Whetsell, Natalie Sutton, Daisy Stemple and Luke Anger.

The group stayed at Blackwater Lodge during the field trip, which took place the last weekend in April. They left Elkins that Friday night and didn’t return home until Sunday. Students from Wetzel County took part in the field trip at the same time, Epperson said.

The program was created and operated by the National Youth Science Foundation, which hosted the field trips from late February through April. They were designed for groups of up to 12 students in seventh and eighth grade from throughout West Virginia, said John Giroir, director of the National Youth Science Camp.

Information was distributed to schools throughout the state, and interested teachers and individuals were able to apply for the program.

Each weekend getaway experience featured a range of topics for students, such as robotics, applied mathematics, environmental conservation, clean energy technology, computer science, geology, biology, engineering, hydrology, energy management, environmental conservation, wind energy and more.

Giroir said each group also was able to work on building a 400-piece robotic arm, which then was taken back to the group’s home classroom.

“It’s really exciting to see it transform from all those pieces into a functioning robotic arm,” he said.

Giroir said the National Youth Science Foundation also has hosted other camps and programs for West Virginia students, and he hopes the field trips will be able to continue.

“We’re actively seeking funding to help continue the project,” he said, noting this year’s program was offered free to students and chaperones, and it was supported by the Governor’s STEM Initiative, EQT and The Jeanne G. and Lawson W. Hamilton, Jr. Family Foundation.

Additional information about the National Youth Science Foundation and its programs, including ways to support the field trips, is available online at www.nysf.com.

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