Combining the study of the human heart with rocket science seems like something suited for people with PhDs.
Yet 50 high school Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) students from the San Diego Unified School District will explore both fields when they attend the first JROTC Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) camp, co-hosted by San Diego State University, Aug. 2-6.
Bruce Westermo, affiliate director of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) at SDSU, along with the support of the College of Engineering and the efforts of the JROTC, organized the camp where students can sample the fields of biomedical sciences, engineering, robotics and technology in a fun environment.
The camp experience
The JROTC staff will conduct team building, leadership and physical activities, while other projects will be lead by local PLTW teachers and a mechanical engineering student. Hands-on projects that are created at the camp will be showcased on the final day at a graduation ceremony that includes parents and principals.
“I was approached by Bruce (Westermo) to do this camp and I thought it seemed like a great opportunity to share this information with these students,” said Ellie Vadiver, a teacher from University City High. “I am so excited about PLTW’s biomedical sciences program and I always look forward to sharing this innovative and fun program with students.”
If building remote control robotic devices, studying robotic programming and learning the anatomy of the human heart aren’t enough, students will participate in a variety of other activities. The camp also includes learning how the circulatory system functions, making a heart pump, doing a laparoscopic surgery activity, creating a rocket-powered car, attempting to fly an airplane through the use of flight simulators, exploring the use of solar panels and experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell cars.
A campus tour, a presentation by SDSU’s Office of Admissions and tours of the engineering and science labs will also be part of the event.
Excellent way to teach STEM
“I decided to help teach in this JROTC STEM Camp, because I have found that camps are an excellent way to teach STEM topics,” said Omar Garcia, who teaches at Lincoln High School. “The longer daily sessions allow in-depth examination of topics and allow for projects that don't work in the time restrictions of a classroom schedule.”
With engineering, technology and biomedical firms having an immediate need for well-trained, young people, early exposure to STEM courses is essential.
“I believe the STEM courses provide the students the opportunity to enter the work world with the knowledge and expertise demanded by society today,” Vandiver said. “In fact, health science is one of the few careers expected to grow in the next 20 years,” she added.
Steering students toward being leaders in the STEM disciplines is the goal of the camp. Helping them get there is what inspires the teachers.
“Project Lead the Way is on the cutting edge of the direction education should be heading,” Garcia said. “And I feel fortunate to be exposing the students to this incredible program which will ultimately enhance their futures in a very competitive and dynamic workforce.”