Students of all ages from Price to Ivins are beginning to feel the impact of Southern Utah University long before they are eligible to apply for application. Through fairs and competitions hosted by the University, hundreds of school children flock to Thunderbird Nation to receive resources that are unavailable within their school districts.
The purpose behind sponsoring STEM based activities on the University’s campus isn’t for school children to win awards, but to give vital science outreach through that give young students the inspiration and courage to pursue degrees within the sciences.
Hussein Samha, associate professor of chemistry at SUU who coordinated the You Be the Chemist competition for middle school students, stated, “Having these students come to a university and rub shoulders with professors and college students gives them the confidence they need to overcome the fear that science is scary and difficult.”
And from the look of the students that attended the March 2014 Southern Utah Science & Engineering Fair and the You Be the Chemist competition both at SUU, confidence exuded into the walkways adorned with posters detailing engineering experiments and chemistry tests.
Noelle Burton, seventh grader from Lava Ridge Intermediate School, was one of them. Standing proudly in front of a poster filled with geometric shapes, Burton beamed with satisfaction of her successful geometry theorem tests.
“Math has always been hard for me so I used this fair to get better at it,” Burton said. “Now in my geometry class I feel a lot smarter and I am a lot better at math now.”
Along with giving academic scholarships to students that win at the Science & Engineering Fair, the desire of the event coordinators is that by school children coming to a college campus they will be excited about attending college and get a broader picture of college life.
Betsy Bancroft, assistant professor of biology and Fair coordinator, said of the effect that attending University sponsored events has on young students, “SUU offers a distinct atmosphere on its campus and these middle and high school students can experience that and get a glimpse of what being in college will be. It truly makes college a reality for them.”
Bancroft and Samha both went on to say that a huge effect of hosting science outreach events is that resources are made available to school districts that don’t have the funds to give students a full STEM experience in its classrooms.
“Area middle and high schools have so many talented students but just lack the necessary funds to allow its teachers to experiment in the sciences. By attending fairs and competitions at SUU, teachers can show their students what real scientists do and then give the kids the confidence they need to pursue a STEM related degree,” said Samha.
Antinette Haggerty, a sixth grade teacher at Cedar Middle School, echoed those statements and went on to say about her students that competed at the SUU Science Fair, “All these students get so excited for this competition and use their free time after school to create these projects, they are more than willing to do their own research.”
SUU hosts a myriad of science outreach events throughout the school year that open to middle and high school students. If you are interested in have your school be a part of any upcoming event contact the Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Science & Engineering at (435) 586-7920.