Friday, June 10, 2022

CAMEE: UTSA students making STEM accessible, one student at a time

CAMEE: UTSA students making STEM accessible, one student at a time

Aubrey Fuchs, Mansi Joshi, and Daniel Brun lead a lesson at Vineyard Ranch Elementary School.

JUNE 7, 2022— As part of its ongoing effort to increase awareness and interest in STEM fields, the UTSA Center for Advanced Measurements in Extreme Environments (CAMEE) is organizing educational outreach programs to reach kids as early as possible, by focusing on elementary school children.

CAMEE undergrad, graduate and doctoral students are taking their research and adapting it for classrooms of bright-eyed elementary students. Children are given a glimpse into space exploration, polar sea ice and oceanic atmospheres through lessons that intwine mechanical engineering with planetary sciences.

CAMEE is currently collaborating with schools in the North East Independent School District.

During their most recent visits to Vineyard Ranch Elementary School, CAMEE students led lessons integrating data usage and math under the guise that the young students would be preparing for a trip to the moon.

“We need to make the effort to expose students to our work, let them see what we are doing, and engage them at a young age.”

The elementary students colored in squares of a grid to help them understand wavelengths, while another lesson called for them to practice percentages as they listed the importance of cargo for their outer space voyage. Each item was accompanied by the percentage of room it took up.

Since assuming the helm of CAMEE, Kiran Bhaganagar, professor of mechanical engineering and director of CAMEE, has worked to inspire a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary students within the field.

Igniting this curiosity in students at a young age is key, she said.

“Exposure and engagement are critical. We need to make the effort to expose students to our work, let them see what we are doing, and engage them at a young age through guided programs. Sometimes you don’t know what a particular field is because you may not be interested yet. We want students of all ages to know of the opportunities,” Bhaganagar said.

CAMEE was established at UTSA in 2019 to encourage interdisciplinary academic collaboration at the university. The center, funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project, continues to grow opportunities for students of all ages to explore the field of STEM.

UTSA’s CAMEE also hosts events with the goal to increase the involvement of women in STEM through tours of various labs with female researchers on hand to showcase their work. This summer, CAMEE will be participating in an all-girls STEM summer camp organized by North Independent School District called STEM Sisters.

“Women like us already in the profession need to make an important step in helping connect female students to STEM. These are all the small steps that we are doing, but I would love to do it on a much larger scale eventually,” Bhaganagar said.

UTSA’s classification as a Tier One research university and a Hispanic Serving Institution place it in a unique position to advance diversity in STEM. Specializing in cyber, health, fundamental futures and social-economic transformation, UTSA aspires to become a model for student success, a great public research university, and an exemplar for strategic growth and innovative excellence.

— Ari Castañeda

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