Alcoa kids attend STEM camp over spring break

Alcoa kids attend STEM camp over spring break

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The camp is taught by Alcoa Elementary School teachers with help from UT graduate students. The camp is taught by Alcoa Elementary School teachers with help from UT graduate students.
Fourth grader Walker Cope was most excited about building a solar-powered car. Fourth grader Walker Cope was most excited about building a solar-powered car.
"STEM programs are the basis of progress in society, really. If you think about it, it's scientific advances that allow for longer lifespans, better surgery and more advanced transit systems," said grad student Geoff Conklin. "STEM programs are the basis of progress in society, really. If you think about it, it's scientific advances that allow for longer lifespans, better surgery and more advanced transit systems," said grad student Geoff Conklin.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

ALCOA (WATE) - Some Alcoa elementary students are spending their spring break back at school learning about science, technology, engineering, and math. It's part of a pilot program trying to boost not only test scores, but also interest in these important fields.

"It's just a week, but sometimes a lot of excitement can happen in a week and something can be sparked," said Kim Chaney-Bay with the nonprofit University of Tennessee Center for Literacy, Education & Employment, the center that organized the camp. It's funded by a grant from the Alcoa Foundation.

"Mathematical thinking and the kinds of inquisitive thinking that are critical in the STEM fields start at a young age. This is really the time to get them comfortable. Many people, by the time they're even in middle school, have decided they don't like math or they're not good in math," Chaney-Bay said.

Twenty-three Alcoa Elementary third and fourth graders were chosen for this week-long STEM camp, learning to build everything from solar cars to toothpick towers.

"The principal made the decision to target kids that are doing well, they're proficient on their assessments, but these are students she was hoping could get an extra boost," Chaney-Bay said.

The camp is taught by Alcoa Elementary School teachers with help from UT graduate students. 

"STEM programs are the basis of progress in society, really. If you think about it, it's scientific advances that allow for longer lifespans, better surgery and more advanced transit systems," said Geoff Conklin, who's pursuing his masters in mechanical engineering.

And two days into the week, the kids didn't seem to mind spending their spring break back in class.

"Probably because of all the good stuff we're getting to learn that we normally wouldn't learn in school," said fourth grader Walker Cope.

He is soaking up all this science because he wants to be a stock car racer someday.

"Do you feel smarter already?" we asked Cope. "Yes, and I've only been here three days!" he replied.

Parents attend class and work on STEM projects with their kids all day on the Saturdays before and after camp.

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