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Local Students Dive into Science and Math at OBU STEM Camp

June 19, 2017

Oklahoma Baptist University recently held its annual Summer Institute STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp, running May 30 through June 16. This year, the camp opened to fourth through eighth grade students from North Rock Creek school district.

In its fifth year, the Summer Institute STEM camp is hosted by the James E. Hurly College of Science and Mathematics. The goal of this program is to develop knowledge of and enthusiasm for various career paths in STEM areas. Activities involving teamwork are central, helping students develop leadership skills and self-esteem while also increasing their academic confidence.

Dr. Renita Murimi, associate professor of computer information science, helped found the camp five years ago. While previous years opened the camp to older students throughout the county, a unique opportunity opened this year for the partnership with one school.

“The collaboration with North Rock Creek schools allowed us to target the camp to middle school students in fourth through eighth grades, versus having the camp open to students in the age group of 10 to 17 years, as we have done in the past,” she said. “It let us tailor our activities better for the middle school group.”

The first week of the camp was held at North Rock Creek, while the final two weeks were held on the OBU campus in Shawnee. North Rock Creek provided lunch and transportation, while the students enjoyed a snack on the OBU campus and a camp totebag. Also, through the support of sponsors, the camp was offered free of charge to students this year.

Those attending interacted with numerous OBU science and math professors and experienced hands-on learning. Some of the different topics taught included mysterious mixtures/sewer leeches taught by Dr. Roland Ngebichie-Njabon, chemistry instructor; writing clearly in mathematics led by Dr. Cherith Tucker, assistant professor of mathematics; density column/iron in cereal with Dr. Yvonne Mbote, assistant professor of chemistry; measuring micrometeorite deposition taught by Dr. John McWilliams, professor of natural science; elephant toothpaste with Dr. Lakshmi Viswanath, assistant professor of chemistry; HTML/QR codes taught by Murimi; and anatomy and physiology led by Dr. Brad Jett, James E. Hurley professor of biology.

Each school year, North Rock Creek opens enrollment for their after-school program and all who apply are accepted. They may also apply to attend the offered spring break camp and summer camp.

“We believe it is important for our students to experience this camp to expose them to new STEM ideas, give them confidence in the areas of STEM, and to showcase how fun STEM can be,” says Amber Rosser, middle school counselor and director of the Kids' Rock 21st CCLC after-school program for North Rock Creek Middle School. “In addition, we believe giving our students this experience at OBU will help establish a foundation that they belong on a college campus and they can make connections with the professors. Hopefully, we are able to keep this strong partnership in the years to come so that our students can be familiar with OBU and they will know that going to college is amazing so it will become a part of their future.”

As director of the after-school program, Rosser was heavily involved in the process to make sure the STEM camp happened. From meetings to prepare for the camp to enrolling students to getting supplies and coordinating staff, she dedicated herself to the success of the camp.

Rosser desires the camp to shape the future of the kids attending.

“I hope they will learn that STEM is an exciting and innovative career choice,” she said. “I hope they learn there are many areas of STEM and that they might just find an area that they love and can aspire to continue in their future.”

“OBU is blessed to work with North Rock Creek schools for the three-week camp,” said Dr. Chris Jones, dean of the Hurley College of Science and Mathematics. “Part of our motivation is to give back to our community, as Jesus said it is better to give than to receive. This camp is one way we can do just that. Additionally, we simply love sharing STEM activities with others. Seeing the kids excited about what excites us is such a blessing. These kids are the future, and we are grateful to play a role in their development.”

Murimi is grateful for all of those who supported the camp.

“I am thankful for the leadership provided by Dean Jones, and for the tremendous support of the math and science faculty,” she said. “Many thanks also to Dean David Houghton [Dickinson College of Business] for his support, and to Gretchen Trimble and the office of development for their fundraising. Finally, we could not do this without our sponsors. Their financial support has let us offer the Summer Institute STEM camp for the fifth straight year in a row.”