Worcester Tech Camp Focuses On STEM Principles

Worcester Tech Camp Focuses On STEM Principles

BERLIN – An archaeology dig. A rocket launch. A DNA extraction.

While most local students spent their first week of summer vacation forgetting about school, in Newark a group of eighth graders was getting a glimpse of what to expect from STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programs at Worcester Technical High School.

“We’re trying to let the rising eighth-graders understand what STEM programs are about and why they might want to get into them,” said Marlyn Barrett, coordinator of science instruction for Worcester County Public Schools.

Through a STEM grant, the Worcester County school system was once again able to offer the STEM Wow program June 24-26. Roughly 40 students took part in the camp, which was designed to give them an understanding of the biomedical, agriculture, multimedia, hospitality and pre-engineering programs offered at Worcester Tech.

“It really is just about getting the kids to have some experiences they might not get to have at home,” Barrett said.

Students repotted plants, identified leaves and learned about the chemistry of farming during the agriculture session. To understand multimedia, they learned to use Adobe Photoshop, green screens and webcams.

For the biomedical session, teacher Laura Miller guided them through extracting DNA from a strawberry. Students smashed the fruit, added an extraction buffer and then filtered the mash. After adding a bit of it to a pipette filled with alcohol, they were able to watch the DNA — visible as a globby white substance — precipitate out.

“It’s something they will remember,” Barrett said.

Students worked this week in camp to extract the DNA from strawberries.

Students worked this week in camp to extract the DNA from strawberries.

The camp also provided students with the opportunity to dig like archeologists for some broken pottery and chunks of amber as well as with the chance to fly drones and launch model rockets. Student Hayden Gable, eagerly waiting for a rocket to launch, said he’d enjoyed the experience.

“I’m learning new things,” he said.

Barrett said the camp served to provide the students with a chance to see the array of STEM programs available to them at Worcester Tech.

“They even get to meet some of the teachers they would actually have,” Barrett said.

She said students entering eighth grade were targeted so they would still have time to decide on their interests and get their grades up if necessary before applying for one of the STEM programs in ninth grade.

“They tell me the hardest part is deciding which program to go into,” Barrett said.