Sat, March 02, 2024

Summer camps target STEM students

Augusta Technical College is accepting applications for summer camps to help develop skills in the science, technology engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

The 2024 Immersion Virtual & Augmented Reality (VARiETy) Summer Camps for middle and high school students will be held in June.

The camp for middle school students can engage younger children in developing skills that show career paths they may want to pursue when preparing to enter the workforce.

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High school students have long been the focus of programs, like dual enrollment opportunities with universities and technical colleges, but there has been increasing attention on younger students, particularly in middle school.

Dual enrollment programs in Georgia are currently limited to high school juniors and seniors. However, a Georgia joint legislative committee last year held a series of statewide meetings to discuss expanding dual enrollment opportunities to younger students.

Although focused on students at the high school level, the committee also drew attention to middle school students.

In its recommendations to the legislature for expanding dual enrollment programs, the committee wrote, “High school counselors participate in dual enrollment professional development on a regular basis, but middle school counselors are not exposed to the program at the same rate.” In light of that, the committee recommended a change. “Educate middle school counselors about dual enrollment and encourage them to begin exposing students to career opportunities at a younger age.”

That is already happening in some local districts. In the Richmond County School System (RCSS), Charlie Tudor, the Advanced Studies Program Administrator for the Richmond County School System who oversees the district’s dual enrollment program, told ABD they offer exploratory courses and opportunities for middle school students.

“That looks a little different at every middle school, but for sure, with information technology, computer science, coding, some of those trends that are so prevalent here in Augusta,” he said, adding partnerships with higher education institutions and businesses also reach into the middle schools. “Augusta University, they have lots of programs to help students early on be exposed to allied medical professions. As well as Georgia Power. They have a robust program where they go and engage kids all the way down to like fifth grade. So, we have those opportunities where kids are exposed to the careers that they could eventually track into or choose.”

Reaching younger students is also the goal of the recently opened Junior Achievement Discovery Center on River Watch Parkway, a partnership between RCSS and the Columbia County School District (CCSD).

The JA BizTown section will immerse sixth-grade students in a simulated economy. They will devise a business plan, create a product to sell, and determine the price point to entice customers to buy. The other section, JA Finance Park, is for seventh-grade students to help them experience a real-life financial future.

John Hancock, President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Georgia, believes centers like this make Junior Achievement the early stage in the workforce development continuum.

“This is the opportunity for business to tell the story of business and to tell the story of financial literacy, and to help get kids ready for that,” he explained. “We’ve lost a lot of this kind of content and ethos in our school systems. I think we’re in a state, frankly, that really values business and that wants kids to have the opportunity to learn about business and see what opportunities there are for them in their futures in business.”

There is no fee to attend the Augusta Tech Summer Camps. They are open to students from Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie, and Lincolnton counties.

The middle school camp is for rising 6th to 8th grade. Augusta Tech said the goal is to “provide students an opportunity to explore, grow, create, and envision themselves as integral parts of the STEM ecosystem.” The camp will be June 10-13, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. with snacks provided.

The high school camp is June 24-28, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with lunch provided. It is for rising 9th to 12th grade students and will “provide an opportunity to prepare students for successful future college pathways using creative, innovative activities and metaverse technology.”

The application is available at www.augustatech.edu/skins/userfiles/files/CougarCamps/STEM-VR-Summer-Camp-Application_1-22-24.pdf

The deadline to apply is February 29. Participants will be notified by March 22.

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