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2017-06-14 / News

John Tyler holds STEM-H summer camps

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER


PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN TYLER COMMUNITY COLLEGE PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN TYLER COMMUNITY COLLEGE This July and August, for the third summer in a row, teens and preteens will take over John Tyler Community College and learn how to weld, create robots, and practice cybersecurity as part of the school’s STEM-H in the Summer programming.

“They’re really hands-on, fun, engaging camps, and the cool thing is that [the high school camps are] taught by our professors,” says Cathleen McCarthy-Burke, STEM-H coordinator for the school. STEM-H stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health.

The camps, which are taught at both of the college’s campuses, are available for rising fourth through 12th graders, and include courses on information technology, life and health sciences, health care, engineering and coding. This will be the third summer the college is offering its week-long Camp Innovation courses for fourth through ninth graders. It will also be the first time the school will host experience and certification camps, two-week-long camps where students can immerse themselves in specific topics and earn industry certifications.

McCarthy-Burke says last year’s program “was just kind of exciting to the students, and it made them feel that they were doing something special by being part of a college.”

She says connecting students with STEM-H fields is a priority because STEM-H jobs are high paying and demand is and will continue to be high. In Virginia, the disparity between positions available in STEM-H fields and the supply of trained applicants has led members of the public and private sectors to step up efforts to increase the number of credentialed candidates for such jobs. In 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered an initiative challenging Virginia’s education and workforce development programs to create 50,000 STEM-H workforce credentials a year by the end of his administration. At John Tyler, the summer camps receive both private and federal funding, from Altria Group and a federal grant.

“The focus is to just give the students an opportunity to learn about career paths,” says Andrea Dharamsi, an IT instructor at the college who will teach as part of the Midlothian campus’ IT Exploratory Camp for the second time this summer. “The biggest thing is to give high school students the feel for college classes and experience some of these different fields.”

Dharamsi says her class is one of the more hands-on ones. Students will participate in a lab in which they’ll program routers and switches, and partake in ethical hacking activities. The latter involves practicing different strategies to attack a network and expose its weaknesses in order to keep it safe.

“You’re not hacking with the intent of stealing information or shutting down a network,” Dharamsi says.

Alan Massengill, an electrical instructor at John Tyler’s Chester campus, will teach a class as part of the engineering technologies program. This summer will be his third time teaching middle schoolers at the camp.

“They come here not really knowing much about the industrial piece, what’s out there in the real world, and they get a taste of that,” says Massengill, department head of the school’s electrical program. “We try to show them the electrical piece, what’s behind the walls in your house.”

In Massengill’s lab, students learn about safety and how to wire up a light. Another part of the course includes using a welding simulator.

“They come in and they get really engaged with it,” says Massengill of the course. “A lot of good things happen, a lot of interest and smiles.”

The camps start running July 10. Sessions cost $110-$220 per week, and more information is available on John Tyler’s website.

“We’re still accepting students,” says McCarthy-Burke, adding that scholarships are available. The scholarships are partially funded by Altria. “We really want to reach out to as many students as possible to make the opportunities available.” ¦

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