Category: STEM Entrepreneurship Academy

STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Encourages STEM Innovation for High Schoolers

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

Twenty-eight high school students from across Alabama collaborated on a community or school-based need using principles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) during this year’s STEM Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA), Sunday through Friday, July 10–15 at The University Alabama.

“This camp holds a special place in my heart because it’s really at the intersection of entrepreneurship and science that most innovation takes place,” said Dr. Jim McLean, associate vice president for Community Affairs and executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP).

Teams presented their proposed projects to the community during a final showcase at North Lawn Hall on July 15, where the winners were announced.

Ryan Hodges, Alex Kimbrell, Tia McGuffie and Matthew Waldrop from Brookwood High School (Tuscaloosa County School System) were named winners for their project, “Career Assistance Program.” Kayln Coleman, Kerahgan Peterson and Tanaya Williams from Central High School (Phenix City Schools) had the second winning project, “Feminine Hygiene Machine.”

Each team received $1,000 in the form of grant funding for their schools to implement these programs.

Held annually during July, the one-week residential camp provides students opportunities to improve their knowledge and application of STEM while developing their entrepreneurship skills during hands-on workshops and listening to experts in the field at The University of Alabama.

“I like working with them,” said Elizabeth Jernigan, UA instructor of marketing and SEA instructor for STEM in business. “It has kind of segued into some other things, like this past spring a handful of our students and I went down to Greensboro High School once a week, and we worked with them on innovation projects. Then they got to come visit campus in April, so it’s been fun.”

As Jernigan pointed out, SEA connects UA faculty with rising high school students, but for campers, SEA also provides a glimpse into college life.

“I like that they have the professors come out and teach us some of the stuff, like civil engineering and all the different types and what they focus on and what they help us do,” said Jacob Woods, a student from G.W. Carver High School.

Students also learned about the real-world applications of STEM from guest speakers, such as Tim Lewis, a telecommunications consultant, and employees of D.H. Griffin Wrecking, the company that imploded Tutwiler Hall.

Campers put their skills to the test by working on group project proposals that addressed a need within their community or school, presenting their entrepreneurship ideas at the final showcase.

“They’re all really smart girls, and just for them to have the opportunity to come here for a week and learn different things and also share some of the things that they know, it makes me proud,” said Angela Peterson, whose daughter was on the Central High grant-winning team.

“I am very ecstatic because coming from an area that lacks opportunity and just being a teen mom, to see my daughter that I have in life to come to this amazing university to participate amongst other students, it was just amazing,” added Tiesha Bryant.

Participating students were nominated by their respective schools and were Amelia L. Johnson High School, Bibb County High School, Brookwood High School, G.W. Carver High School, Hillcrest High School, Holt High School, Northside High School, Paul W. Bryant High School, Sipsey Valley High School, Valiant Cross Academy, Sumter Central High School, Central High School of Tuscaloosa and Central High of Phenix City.

SEA is led by Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education at CCBP.