Winston-Salem, NC – While many of their friends are hanging out by the pool this summer, about 100 rising sixth through tenth graders in Forsyth County are postponing their leisure time until after the SciTech Technology Institute ends.
From now through June 28, students arrive at Atkins High School for the SciTech program every weekday morning by 8:45 a.m. They spend their days in activities such as laboratory experiments, brushing up on math skills, and learning about careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), before going home at 5:30 p.m.
SciTech is a partnership between Winston-Salem State University and Wake Forest Innovation Quarter (formerly known as the Piedmont Triad Research Park), which helped develop a curriculum that is in line with the N.C. Common Core and essential standards. An important goal of the program is to expose minority students, and students in the community surrounding Innovation Quarter, to a full range of STEM careers.
From a modest beginning in 2006 with 25 rising eighth graders, SciTech has expanded each year. Any interested student may attend the program for just $10, thanks to a grant from the American Communities Trust and funding and in-kind donations from community partners.
A number of guest speakers and field trips demonstrate the amazing variety of STEM careers. The trips are as diverse as visits to the Out of Our Minds animation studio, the Downtown Health Plaza, Guilford Technical Community College, Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Steam Station, and the molecular pathology lab at Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
“It is very important to get students excited about the opportunities in these career fields,” said Dr. Denise Johnson, associate professor of education at Winston-Salem State University and director of the SciTech program. “Further, we have to educate the students in time so that they can choose the middle- and high-school math and science classes that will put them on the right path for a college major. A lot of students mistakenly think STEM jobs involve sitting in front of a computer or hunched over a microscope all day, when in reality, there are tremendously diverse and exciting career opportunities for them.”
Dr. Eric Tomlinson, president of Innovation Quarter, said education programs like SciTech are instrumental to ensuring that the medical, scientific and technology fields have an adequate supply of qualified employees. “Here at Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, we are concerned with building a knowledge community, and the careers we are exposing the students to through SciTech are the jobs of the future. SciTech is also teaching them how to work together to solve problems, think logically, collect and analyze data, and draw conclusions. These are skills that will be crucial to career success in STEM fields and beyond.”