STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Showcases Students’ Creativity

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

Winning projects from the 2023 STEM Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA) were announced at the final showcase in North Lawn Hall on July 14.  

Zamiyah Kilpatrick, Tavion Shaw and Maria Mitchell from Amelia Love Johnson High School (Marengo County) were named winners for their project, “Thomaston Community Cleanup.” BreAsia Pullum, Marquaveon Tabb, Christen Clark and Jakory Hudson from R.C. Hatch High School (Perry County) had the second winning project, “Community Wealth Starts with Great Mental Health — School Wellness Room.”

Each team received $500 in the form of grant funding for their schools to implement these programs.

“I have been blown away by the students’ willingness to share about themselves — their successes, their challenges, their dreams — and the effort they’ve put in to come up with an idea that will benefit their schools and communities,” said Quoc Hoang, director of experiential learning for the Culverhouse College of Business and SEA facilitator. “Throughout my life, people have invested in me and provided access to resources that fueled my ability to reach life and career aspirations. Serving as a facilitator in this year’s SEA has allowed me to share my story and talents with future community leaders and maybe even University of Alabama students.”  

Held July 10–14, SEA was a one-week residential camp that provided high school juniors and seniors from across Alabama with opportunities to improve their knowledge and application of STEM while developing their entrepreneurship skills during hands-on workshops and hearing from experts in the field at The University of Alabama.

“I’ve made a lot of good friendships,” said Savannah Dockery, a student at Sipsey Valley High School. “ … I learned a lot about electrical engineering, and that was fun … just getting to know people has been really fun.”

“It has been fun getting to meet new people and meeting engineers and scientists and people like that to tell you about how things are at UA,” added Hillcrest High School student Levy Russell.

UA STEM faculty volunteered to host workshops teaching practical aspects of STEM with activities to encourage students’ critical thinking. 

“Engineering at its core is about helping people,” Dr. Todd Freeborn, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, told students. “It’s about solving problems that make people’s lives better, so that’s really important to me. I love teaching students like all of you … helping you develop the skills, so you can solve the problems that are important to you.”

New this year was an aviation day partnership made possible in part by UA alumna Jessica Sanders Walker in which students traveled to Sanders Aviation and Sanders Flight Training Center in Jasper to learn about aviation from industry professionals. Walker is the vice president of Sanders Aviation and Sanders Flight Training Center and founder of the nonprofit, Operation Aviation Foundation, which encourages youth to seek education and career pathways in aviation. 

“I got to meet Jake [Peterson] and Andrea [Ziegler] on the New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, so this was kind of our first partnership, and we really want to grow it,” said Walker, who is also a member of the Community Affairs Board of Advisors.

The 28 students that participated in SEA were nominated by their respective schools and were from Amelia L. Johnson High School, Francis Marion High School, G.W. Carver High School, Hillcrest High School, Northside High School, Paul W. Bryant High School, R.C. Hatch High School, South Lamar High School, Sipsey Valley High School and Valiant Cross Academy.