High School Students Take Closer Look at College
A robotic dog barks, moves across a table and slightly tilts its head when it hears students beckoning it to come. At another table, students work with brightly colored wires and other components on a grid, while others watch as a UV light changes the color of beads that make up a bracelet.
Close to 70 students a day, from Hampton and Phoebus high schools, recently took part in a Summer Academy for the GearUP program, hosted by Norfolk State University. The program works to “gear up” students for college. GearUP is a partnership between the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, in which NSU participates, and Hampton City Schools. Besides exposing students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), students also get a taste of campus life, learn about financial aid, academic degrees and the admissions process.
“The students seemed to enjoy the nanotechnology activities,” said Dr. Messaoud Bahoura, associate professor of engineering and for the Center for Materials Research. According to Jennifer Markham, the Hampton High GearUP grant coordinator and Genevieve Elazier-Harris, GearUP coordinator for Phoebus High, students enjoyed the workshop and some of them are interested in exploring NSU as a possible college. In fact, said Tanya Perry, Outreach Coordinator, Spartan Crusade for Academic Success, who coordinated the event, two students applied and were admitted to the University as a result of participating in the Summer Academy.
Students participated in a number of hands-on STEM activities that allowed them to work directly with concepts. Dr. Eleanor Hoy assisted students in building and troubleshooting electronic circuits, which allowed them to work with resistors, capacitors, diodes and other electronic components. Two students used their ingenuity to connect their circuits to come up with their own project. Rising Hampton High seniors, Altavier Young and Brandon Sapp, didn’t know what would happen, but their project successfully turned on the fan component in their circuit kits.
The group of students learned from Dr. Thorna Humphries, associate professor of computer science, how robots are used in automation, military and medical applications. The students also interacted with a robotic dog, programmed by an NSU student to act like a pet dog and to respond to her voice commands and programmed a robot to do simple tasks.
Dr. Rhonda D. Ellis, assistant professor of mathematics, helped students explore ways that scientists estimate certain populations, such as the population of fish in a particular body of water. She introduced the students to the capture-recapture method where a small group of a particular fish species is captured, marked or tagged, and then released so they can be recognized during a later recapture. Students simulated this process using goldfish crackers to represent the population and pretzel goldfish crackers to represent the tagged goldfish. After drawing multiple samples from their population and recording the number of tagged and untagged goldfish in each, students were able to estimate the size of a large population—total number of goldfish—by applying the concepts of ratios and proportions.