In November, the University of Alaska’s ANSEP (Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program) facility hosted a total of 29 students from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. And now through next week, ANSEP will work with another batch of Y-K Delta students in a career program aimed at the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
On the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, 23 middle school students from the Lower Kuskokwim School District and six middle school students from the St. Mary’s City School District participated in a 12-day series of hands-on science and math activities that included building their own computers.
“They’re actually building the tower portion of the computer,” said Yosty Storms, a Regional Director for ANSEP. “So they’re putting in the motherboard, the hard drive. As they’re building their computer, they’re also learning about the different parts.”
Storms works in ANSEP’s Middle School Academy to familiarize sixth, seventh, and eighth graders with what goes on in the worlds of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - often collectively referred to as STEM.
“When they first get here some of them are pretty bashful, they have to think about what they’re gonna say when they introduce themselves, but by the time they leave they’re giving presentations,” said Storms. “So, it’s really cool to see that growth.”
After the program finishes, students have the option of taking their newly constructed desktop computers home, provided that they follow a few guidelines.
“They need to complete Algebra 1 by the time they enter high school, and maintain a C average in their math and science classes, and continue with the different ANSEP components,” said Storms.
The goal, says Storms, is to get students interested in these fields prior to their high school years. Middle school students who have completed the 12-day program are also eligible to participate in the five-day STEM career program beginning Friday, December 1.
“And that STEM career exploration is going to be focused on engineering and design, and that process is to provide them the opportunity to continue with the ANSEP program. And so they can do a STEM career exploration every year until they get into high school,” said Storms.
Storms is Inupiaq and grew up in Unalakleet. She followed the ANSEP/STEM track herself into a career in math and science education.
“I hope that, because I have younger siblings, me being the first person in my family to graduate from college, to be an example as like, ‘You guys can do it too; you just have to put in the work and take advantage of opportunity,’” said Storms.
Middle school students from Bethel, Alakanuk, Hooper Bay, Kotlik, Marshall, Russian Mission, Scammon Bay, and St. Mary’s participated in the ANSEP activity.