Category: STEM Entrepreneurship Academy

Students from 10 Area Schools Attend UA STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Camp

[envira-gallery id=”9410″] 
By Yiben Liu and Luna Yang CCBP Graduate Assistants

Thirty-two campers from 10 high schools in the Tuscaloosa area got a hands-on introduction to science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and entrepreneurship during the Center for Community-Based Partnerships’ STEM Entrepreneurship Academy, held July 14–19 on The University of Alabama campus.

The purpose was to provide opportunities for high school students not only to engage in STEM/entrepreneurial activities but also to plan an entrepreneurial project to take back to their schools, interact with UA students and to explore campus facilities. Participating students were from Aliceville High, Amelia L. Johnson High, Central High, Francis Marion High, Greene County High, Greensboro High, Holt High, R.C. Hatch High, South Lamar High and Sumter Central High. Attendees were all sophomores or juniors nominated by their respective schools. Classes began July 15, with a session in math taught by Dr. Kabe Moen, associate professor of mathematics. He presented an overview of the discipline and careers for which math is key. To hold the campers’ attention, he introduced them to Liars Bingo, which helped them think outside the box and find the fun of math. Moen said, “STEM camp builds enthusiasm for science, helps students learn to work as a team and get along with one another, and to think about their future.” Later that day, campers attended a career fair, led by Career Center administrator Tariq Draine. At the fair they were able to ask questions and talk with UA students about potential college courses and extracurricular activities related to their major. During the Monday evening session, students met with Elizabeth Jernigan, STEM Entrepreneurship Academy facilitator and instructor of marketing in the Culverhouse College of Business. She introduced campers to research methods and began leading them in the process of planning a team project to address a problem or need in their school and community. On Tuesday, during a STEM biology session led by Dr. Michael R. McKain, assistant professor of biology and curator of the Herbarium, students learned about food sources and crop processes and how to isolate plant DNA. That afternoon, Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering, talked students through project design and taught them to build T-shirt cannons. During this session, students began converting their project from ideas to physical design, and plan ways to test their projects’ validity. Ashford said his goal was to introduce students to the hard process of research that leads “to the fun of success.” Students visited the Tuscaloosa Gateway on Tuesday evening, where they participated on several hands-on STEM activities. On Wednesday, Dr. Alexander Hainen, assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, described how traffic signals and security cameras are designed and assembled. He then led the campers on an observation of some of the duties of transportation and traffic engineers, for example by collecting traffic volume data at the intersection of Hackberry Lane and McCorvey Drive. The group later traveled to Jack Warner Parkway to measure the speed of passing cars using radar guns and to view live-streaming security camera video in the control room of the Tuscaloosa Regional Traffic Management Center. “Transportation and traffic engineering involves a lot of application of math, science and physics,” Hainen told the campers, adding that the field would be a promising career for them to consider. For their part, the campers showed great enthusiasm during the sessions, with several saying they would never feel the same driving through traffic signals. On Thursday morning, campers were taught computer science basics by Dr. Jeff Gray, UA professor of computer science, and were given the opportunity to use the Micro:bit, a computer coding device. That afternoon, they visited The Edge Entrepreneurship Institute, a business project incubator and accelerator in Tuscaloosa that focuses on growing and supporting entrepreneurs. Throughout their six-day camp, students were challenged to design a project that addresses a problem in their school or community using a hypothetical $2,000 seed grant. Under the guidance of counselors, students worked in groups and presented their proposals before teachers, parents and fellow campers during the closing program July 19. This year, for the first time, UA’s Division of Community Affairs provided financial support for selected projects to help students implement their projects in their schools and communities. Teams from Aliceville High School, Greensboro High School and Central High School were selected to receive funding totaling $1,750.

Central’s winning project would establish an after-high-school life preparedness club. “This camp opened my eyes to my future,” said Central High School 11th-grade student Amelia Knox. “The most challenging part was to develop the plan step by step. It’s a great opportunity for us to bring this project back to school.”

Uniontown’s R.C. Hatch High School 10th-grade student Tralisia Hunter wants to be a neurosurgeon. She said attending the camp strengthened her determination to follow through with her goals. Her favorite part of camp was the computer science activities. The mother of a Greensboro High School camp participant said, “To send my son away for a whole week was hard, but seeing him and his teammates present their project made me proud. He is growing, he is learning, and this is just amazing.” Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education at CCBP, said, “The STEM Entrepreneurship Academy offered students the opportunity to apply their skills in the STEM disciplines to real-life situations and then carry that experience to the next level by developing a project to help their school and community.”  


Students Expand Knowledge and Horizons at UA STEM Entrepreneurship Academy

[envira-gallery id=”8429″]

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant
Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator

The University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) held its fourth STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Entrepreneurship Academy Sunday through Friday, July 8–13. Twenty-nine rising 10th and 11th graders from 11 high schools — Aliceville, Amelia Love Johnson, Lamar County, Holt, Berry, Pickens County, Greene County, Sumter Central, Hale County, Central (Tuscaloosa) and Greensboro — experienced a week of exploration, engagement and discovery within the STEM disciplines and the world of entrepreneurship.

“Our STEM Academy is one that offers experiences in science, technology, engineering and math, but also expands the campers’ knowledge of business start-up and entrepreneurship skills,” said Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education at CCBP.

The camp’s goal is to offer a fun but challenging and innovative hands-on approach to help students understand STEM as fields of study. Students were also introduced to entrepreneurship concepts essential to the workplace and for business start-ups to connect STEM areas such as computer science and biology to the entrepreneurial model. UA’s Career Center also administered a career inventory and conducted a strengths assessment as part of a simulated career fair involving representatives from several University colleges and departments.

Morgan recruited an impressive teaching and administrative staff from the University and community for this year’s Academy, including UA graduate student Ashley Phan, computer engineering and mathematics; Mary Loyd Lowrey, UA Division of Student Life Career Center; Dr. Asma Hatoum-Aslan, biological sciences; Dr. Marcus Ashford, mechanical engineering; Dr. Rebecca Odom-Bartel, computer science; Dr. Jim Gleason, mathematics; and UA alumna Dr. Adriane Sheffield, curriculum and instruction, Coastal Carolina University.

CCBP expanded its partnerships to additional campus and community entities for the 2018 STEM Academy. Partners included the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, the UA Career Center, High Five Studios — an indie video game design studio (independently made games produced by either one person or a small group of people) — and Tuscaloosa’s Gateway to Discovery, a City of Tuscaloosa innovation center. Alex Haisting of High Five Studios, spring 2018 UA graduate and winner of the 2018 Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition, spoke with students about his experiences as a young entrepreneur.

During the STEM Academy week, students were challenged to design a product or service that addresses a problem in their school or community with a hypothetical $2,000 seed grant. Under the guidance of mentors, students worked in groups and presented their proposals to other participants, teachers and parents during the closing program on July 13.

Central High School 10th-grade student Keyonte Doughty said he wants to be a pediatrician, and the STEM Academy provided very useful information to him. He also liked the EcoCAR building activity, which was a collaboration with UA’s award-winning EcoCAR3 team. During this session, students learned about air pollution and its effects on the human respiratory system, as well as ways to minimize it. They received a basic overview of how hybrid cars work and how their use reduces air pollution.

Before seeing the EcoCAR3 entry, a Chevy Camaro being transformed into a hybrid, students were split into teams of four or five and to work together to build their own model cars using popsicle sticks and straws, a battery and battery holder, wheels and a battery switch. Some of the designs ran on the first attempt, but most teams went back to the work table to determine what changes needed to be made to allow their creations to run. They concluded with a car race in the lobby of the AIME Building (Alabama Institute for Manufacturing Excellence), where team members cheered their cars across the finish line.

A short walk led students to the EcoCAR garage, where they had an opportunity to see the Camaro and to learn about the partnership formed by UA, General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. Phan shared that UA students from a variety of majors can become members of the team, reminding them that in addition to the mathematics and engineering involved, there is also a need for individuals with communication, marketing and a variety of other skills to complete the team.

One of the University’s biology labs was another learning location for Academy participants. Following a lesson on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and instruction on the safety requirements and protocols for the lab from Dr. Hatoum-Aslan, students worked in teams of three to conduct their experiments using Andhra, a virus that was first identified by UA researchers in 2015 and that may help scientists learn about alternatives to conventional antibiotics.

The lab was abuzz with excited conversation as students went on a bacteria-seeking mission, gathering swab samples from the floor, the restrooms, the bottoms of shoes, skin and even the event photographer’s camera.

Prior to this experience, students from nine of the 11 participating schools had never had the opportunity to conduct a basic science experiment in a lab. One student shared that her high school has labs and Bunsen burners, but that the burners cannot be used because there is no gas hook-up. Another shared that their school was without a science teacher for the spring semester, so their science learning came from doing coursework online.

Samantha Jones, a teacher at Amelia Love Johnson High School in Thomaston said of her students who participated in the Academy, “It’s good to have them come out and be a part of this so that they know how a science experiment is done. It’s very fortunate — a blessing for them —to see science in motion.”

Jones, who has worked with these students since they were seventh graders, shared how much it meant to her to see them grow over time and take initiative during this on-campus experience, which she described as life-changing for them. She said that this was her school’s second year to participate in the Academy, and that it has provided an excellent way to get students away from home and out of their comfort zones to experience something new.

“I’ve never been to anything like this and it [the camp] opens me up to new things,” said Sumter Central High School 10th-grade student Asia Ikner. She was determined to be an athletic trainer before she attended the camp, but was fascinated by engineering after spending one week in the Academy. “If I hadn’t come here I wouldn’t know about engineering, only thinking about sports stuff,” said Ikner, “it was really eye-opening … I may want to be something different.”

STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Helps Prepare High Schoolers for World of Rapid Change

[envira-gallery id=”7291″]

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

How do you get youngsters ready for a world in which science and technology seem to be moving at warp speed?

For 35 high school students from West Alabama counties, a starting point was attending this year’s STEM Academy, Sunday through Friday, July 16–21.

“This was our third very successful STEM Academy,” said Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. Her assessment of the camp’s success is borne out by the record 110 students, guests and families who attended the closing program on Friday evening of the camp.

The students came from 11 high schools — Aliceville, Amelia L. Johnson High, Fayette, Greene County, Hale County, Holt, Oakman, Pickens County, Sumter Central, Central (Tuscaloosa), and Greensboro — in eight counties.

“In an incredibly short period of time, we introduced students to each of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics),” Dr. Morgan said. “They were taught by exceptional members of the UA faculty and staff. Students also got to explore their career interests, talk about related fields of study, and ask questions about college life.”

To top it off, students worked on an “entrepreneurship challenge” in which they designed a product or service based on the needs of their school or community. Before arriving at camp, students had submitted ideas for the challenge.

Dr. Morgan recruited an impressive teaching and administrative staff from the University and community for this year’s Academy. They were Dr. Marcus Ashford, mechanical engineering; Dr. Ryan Earley, biological sciences; Dr. Kabe Moen, mathematics; Dr. Rebecca Odom-Bartel, computer science; Mary Loyd Lowrey, UA Career Center; Tommie Syx, Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute; Tim Lewis and Slade Prisoc of The Gateway, an innovation and discovery center; Adriane Sheffield, educational psychology; and Whitney Sewell, Community Affairs.

“The feedback we received from students, parents and community partners this year was both positive and supportive,” Morgan said. “Students particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the hands-on activities at The Gateway and our mini career fair.”

The Career Center administered a career inventory and conducted a strengths assessment as part of a simulated career fair involving representatives from several University colleges and departments.

The camp’s goal is to offer a fun but challenging and innovative hands-on approach to help students understand STEM as fields of study. They were also introduced to entrepreneurship concepts essential to the workplace and for business start-ups to connect STEM areas such as computer science and geometric art to the entrepreneurial model.

For the first time, eight of the 11 camp teachers attended sessions on either Tuesday or Wednesday as participants in order to improve and expand their STEM skills. Teachers engaged also in the Google Classroom learning platform to communicate with Dr. Morgan and her staff regarding students’ entrepreneurship projects during the 2017–2018 school year.

Prior to their arrival, students had submitted entrepreneurial ideas that meet current needs in their community and/or school to Google Classroom. Under specific parameters for their project, the campers designed a product or service that addresses the identified need in this year’s Entrepreneurship Challenge with a hypothetical $2,000 budget and a mentor’s guidance to implement it.

Students had plenty of mentors to choose from this year, as CCBP has expanded its partnerships to more campus and community entities such as the UA Career Center and The Gateway, a City of Tuscaloosa innovation and discovery center on University Boulevard in Alberta City.

“The Academy can benefit students in a variety of ways,” Morgan said.  “Students not only increase their problem-solving skills but also have the potential to benefit their communities. All eleven school teams presented their final project designs during the closing program and plan to seek funding in order to implement the projects in their schools and/or communities.”

Week-long UA STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Gives High School Students a Head Start in Science and Related Areas

[envira-gallery id=”6413″]


From July 18–22, some 40 high school students from schools throughout West Alabama got a jumpstart on some of the most important areas in society in general  and higher education in particular — math, science, engineering and technology — in the weeklong STEM Entrepreneurship Academy at the University of Alabama. The camp demonstrated in meaningful, memorable and enjoyable ways some of the most important tools and concepts in modern society.

On Wednesday, the students learned more about engineering at a lab in the Science and Engineering Complex at the university. Surrounded by state-of-the-art equipment, they observed the process of combustion and other areas of science and technology that might one day become their life’s interest.


Several students echoed the words of Xavier Turner, who’ll be a junior this fall at Sumter Central High School. Turner told a Tuscaloosa News reporter, “I wish this was longer. I could be here a while.”

The big sell of the program, according to program director Dr. Rosianna Gray of the Center for Community-Based Partnership (CCBP), is that it gives science exposure to students who otherwise may not get it. This was the third year of the program.

Campers also got to see and use many campus facilities, including Morgan Hall, the Bashinsky Computer Lab, Farrah Hall, the Biology Building, and the EDGE Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.


Schools represented were Amelia L. Johnson High School in Thomaston; Aliceville High School; Greene County High School in Eutaw; Hale County High School in Moundville; Holt High School; Oakman High School; Pickens County High School in Reform; and Sumter Central High School in York.

 “This camp is one of the premier activities of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships,” said Dr. Jim McLean, CCBP executive director. “The message it conveys with respect to potential careers and skills learned are critical to the future of our state.”

 The four colleges responsible for organizing camp activities are The College of Arts and Sciences, Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, College of Education and the College of Engineering. Camp faculty included Dr. Jim Gleason, associate professor of mathematics; Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Dr. Ryan L. Earley, associate professor of biological sciences; Jonathan Corley, computer science doctoral student; Adriane Sheffield, educational psychology doctoral student; and Douglas Craddock, higher education doctoral student.