Summer of science: City schools team with local colleges for STEM programs

Institutions such as Columbia University, New York University, Lehman College and City College of New York are teaming up with public schools across the city to offer kids free summer school classes in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

BY Stephen Rex Brown , Jason Bisnoff , Ben Chapman

August 4, 2014

For these city kids, it’s the summer of STEM.

As interest in science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM — heats up in classrooms across the Big Apple and nationwide, local colleges are giving younger students a shot at a high-tech higher education.

Public schools from across the city are teaming with colleges such as Columbia University, New York University, Lehman College and City College of New York to offer dozens of kids free summer school classes on futuristic topics.

New York City Department of Education Director of STEM Linda Curtis-Bey said the city’s partnerships with universities give kids access to cutting-edge classes.

“Our STEM summer programs offer our students exciting academic enrichment as well as new perspectives and opportunities,” Curtis-Bey said. “The programs give our students enthusiasm for their education and important skills that prepare them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Nearly 500 city students got futuristic classes in STEM thanks to a series of mostly free summer camp programs operated by New York University this summer.

Staffers and students at NYU’s Polytechnic School of Engineering in Downtown Brooklyn taught the classes in cybersecurity, video games, renewable energy, computer coding and other white-hot fields.

Aarti Patel, 11, loves the science classes she takes at Middle School 67, in Douglaston, Queens, where she’ll be a seventh-grader in September. But her interest in technology rose to the next level in a summer school class in urban planning at NYU’s Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Aarti and her classmates spent the summer designing and building a smart city of the future, considering every aspect of urban life — from energy to transportation and property development.

“I never had a class like it before,” said Aarti, who constructed a Lego model of the urban community she conceived with her fellow middle school students in the program in July. “We designed every part of the city, even a sewer system to handle flooding caused by climate change.”

More than 100 science-loving students from Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx took summer break classes in STEM at nearby Lehman College, as part of an ongoing partnership between the university and the public school.

The Summer Step collaboration includes courses in engineering, mammalian anatomy and computer science, giving kids the chance to spend their break taking cutting-edge classes.

“The goal of this program is to introduce kids to the STEM fields,” said Pedro Baez, director of school/college collaboration at Lehman. “It gives them an opportunity to engage in a very interactive and hands-on manner.”

Student projects this summer included building bridges, dissecting animals, constructing robotic arms, and studying chemical reactions in tie-dyed clothes and ice cream.

Dewitt Clinton junior Kamani Marchant, 17, of the Bronx, spent his summer studying computer science in the program.

“I’ve done some programming before with my friends, but this made me sure I want to do this as my career,” Kamani said. “Now I want to go to college for computer engineering.”

At the City College of New York, 26 budding climatologists, oceanologists and geologists are getting hands-on experience with high-tech remote sensor technology.

Scientists teach the high schoolers about all aspects of sensor development — including ones mounted on satellites and others used in ground measurements. The students then study how to crunch the data and make forecasts. The college hopes the knowledge will serve them well as they pursue fields wrestling with climate change.

The program “offers a glimpse into the cutting-edge sciences engaging the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said City College spokesman Jay Mwamba.

Students from 14 city high schools got high-level exposure to STEM fields through apprenticeships at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute this summer.

Now in its second year, the BRAINYAC program (Brain Research Apprenticeships In New York At Columbia) is a mentored research program for 10th-12th graders that aims to open the resources of the Columbia University neuroscience community to a wider audience.

Lucky high school students accepted to the five-week program got special access to neuroscience laboratories at Columbia University Medical Center, plus training in basic lab skills and neuroscience fundamentals.

Originally published by the Daily News