With job openings exceeding qualified applicants for STEM degrees, employers have a need for new graduates with technology and programming skills. Students from FSU’s College of Communication and Information (CCI) have been doing outreach in Leon County schools for many years including school visits, summer camps, Saturday workshops, classroom support, coding workshops, and hosting schools on campus. This Spring, an interdisciplinary group of students that are part of the STARS program led a weekly after school program at R. Frank Nims Middle School to introduce children to basic engineering concepts and coding.
STARS students have led many outreach efforts both on and off campus focusing their efforts on bringing more minorities and women into the computing and IT fields. Working with Nims Middle School Dean of Students, Mr. Tyneal Haywood and CCI Associate Dean Ebe Randeree, the STARS project leader, Melissa Davis, structured a 10 week program for female students. Melissa is in her first year as a Ph.D. student in Engineering at FSU. She said, “It was extremely rewarding working with my Nims students. I have been wanting to do outreach like this for many years and Nims was a perfect fit. The girls did a great job in each lesson and it was awesome to see everyone gain new knowledge each week.”
“Partnering with FSU and Ms. Melissa Davis has been transformational for the students at R. Frank Nims Middle School,” said Haywood. “During the 10 week program, I have noticed a tremendous difference in our female students. They are excited and even more interested in the STEM field. Working with Ms. Davis and her team has truly been a life changing experience for our students. We hope to continue this partnership.”
“Technology can seem so complex so helping the girls realize that it is something they can understand was an honor,” said Abigail Hall, a STARS student who volunteered with the program. “Watching them get excited about working with it was a pleasure.”
The weekly topics included:
- Circuitry & Bread boarding 101
- Blinking LEDs with 555 Timer
- Working with Motors/ Making Little Droids
- Renewable Energy 101 (Solar Energy)
- What is an Arduino?
- Light Show/ Music
- 3D Printing and Personal Projects
- Girls’ Choice
Josh Goraum, another STARS volunteer, said, “The Nims outreach project has been an incredible learning experience for myself as well as for the students. It was awesome to see them wanting to dive deeper on certain topics and getting excited when their circuits lit up. They were also eager to help their friends when someone ran into a hurdle along the way. The skills they learned in this program will help propel them down a rewarding career in technology, should they pursue it further.”
The main focus of the workshops was to teach new technology while promoting problem solving and critical thinking while providing a level of confidence for the students. Melissa was joined by other STARS students (Allison Cannan, Bryanna Solorzano, Josh Goraum, Kylee McPhail, and Abigail Hall) as a well as a group of student volunteers from the IT Leadership Course (led by Jonathan Sapp, Josh Goraum, and Nickson Jean Baptiste). The STARS group is planning a similar program to be executed at another middle school in the Fall as well as 2-3 summer day-long workshops on FSU’s campus.
“These programs are very popular with middle school students,” said Randeree. He added, “By inspiring young girls to pursue STEM opportunities, we start the process of equal representation in innovation and technology.”