Summer STEM program prepares incoming freshmen for life at Penn State

Students in the summer STEM bridge program at Penn State Greater Allegheny prepare solar panels as part of a group project. The program's cost was defrayed by grants from the Pittsburgh-based EQT Foundation and the National Science Foundation. During the month of July, incoming freshmen at Penn State Greater Allegheny honed their academic skills in engineering, mathematics, English composition and physics as part of The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) summer bridge program. Twenty-four openings were available to students who applied to the program by submitting essays describing how participation would help them to achieve their academic and career goals.

During the four-week session, students experienced the academic and social aspects of a Penn State education. Students attended classes each day until 3 p.m. After class, they participated in tutoring, study skills classes and other activities to prepare them for college-level work.

?The STEM program gives these students a head start and better prepares them for some of the difficult classes they will encounter as college students,? said Kristin Kokal, assistant director of academic affairs and an organizer of the program. ?We also plan outside activities to help them bond and give them an opportunity to develop a support system.?

As part of the program, students put what they were learning to practical use at Blueroof, a McKeesport company that develops state-of-the-art living facilities for senior citizens. The project, referred to as BIM, or Blueroof Independence Module, was designed as a free-standing modular unit that could be attached to a house and used primarily for returning disabled veterans. Each team presented their findings at a final semester presentation.

The three teams researched and designed components for the BIM dealing with architecture, energy and technology.

?I found the project to be very interesting and beneficial," said Katherine Yoho, one of the students in the STEM program from the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts magnet school. "Being on the campus this summer and working on this project helped me to get familiar with the campus before the fall semester starts. It also made me more aware of the kind of school work that is expected of me and better prepared me for the semester."

The program?s cost of $750 included meals, field trips, text books, extracurricular activities and faculty instruction. Costs were defrayed by grants from the Pittsburgh-based EQT Foundation and the National Science Foundation.