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Big Bend brings STEM learning to high school students

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Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 9:05 am

MOSES LAKE - Big Bend Community College is continuing efforts to get more kids interested in STEM learning.

The college has been using its STEM Summer Institute to introduce Basin high school students to engineering and other related subjects - part of their overall initiative to prepare students to eventually enter STEM-related fields.

Now in its third year, the program allows students to participate in hands-on learning projects, tour Big Bend's campus and STEM Center, learn about degree options and meet with engineers from local companies all over the course of three days.

A similar program also exists for college-age students, and will take place later this month.

STEM Engineering Curriculum Specialist James Sauceda said the Summer Institute is a good way for students to see if a STEM career is for them or not.

"It's a hands-on introduction to engineering subjects," he said. "And it shows students what they can get involved with here at Big Bend with our curriculum and even beyond."

A lot of what students learn during the Summer Institute ties into what Big Bend STEM students learn while in the program, said Sauceda.

The first day for example, students worked on building model bridges. The bridge had to eventually be tested to make sure they were structurally sound and could handle various loads, he said.

"There's a lot that goes into it," said Sauceda. "It takes an understanding of statics, which this activity was kind of like an introduction to statics - something that's in our mechanical engineering course."

Big Bend also offers courses in electrical engineering. So students got an introduction to that subject as well, he said.

On day 2, students learned more about circuits and programming. They each got an Arduino kit and had to program and modify them, said Sauceda.

Day 3 consisted of visits from engineers from REC Silicon, Genie and Microsoft as well as from representatives from Eastern Washington and Central Washington universities. Students also got to tour the Big Bend campus.

Sauceda said Microsoft, who has representation on the college's STEM committee, helped fund this year's Summer Institute. About 15 students from Moses Lake, Royal City, Ephrata, Warden and Grand Coulee schools participated this year.

"It was very rewarding to see these kids get excited not only about learning in general, but about learning about engineering and what opportunities that can bring," he said.

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