Summer Bridge unites bright young minds
Radford University's Summer Bridge stretched across the Atlantic this month to unite young women in pursuit of scientific study.
A record number of 83 high school-aged women, representing 10 states as far west as Idaho and one foreign country, France, attended the College of Science and Technology's Summer Bridge STEM program, held on campus July 12-17.
For a decade, CSAT has hosted the weeklong residential experience for sophomore, junior and senior female students who are interested in science, technology and math.
Students are broken into five groups, based on their study of interest: Space Exploration (physics and math); Making Mountains (geology); Bones and Bytes (digital forensics, cyber security and forensic anthropology); Genes, Molecules and Medicine (chemistry and biology); and Environmental Science biology, geospatial science and statistics). Radford University faculty members lead the different groups, incorporating classroom lectures and activities with fieldwork experience.
In CSAT faculty members Brenda Hastings' and Rhett Herman's Space Exploration classroom, students built robots and experimented with GPS devices. They were also treated to a presentation by an employee of TORC Robotics, a Blacksburg-based technology company that specializes in unmanned ground vehicle development.
Hastings has participated in Summer Bridge for several years, and out of all the students she has taught, "This is by far the best group we've had," Hastings said.
"They are all very interactive," she continued. "They ask amazing questions and are really engaged."
Summer Bridge students go through a rigorous application process. They must submit an essay, and they qualify for the program based on GPA and other factors. The program attracts students from across the country, and this year, from across the globe.
Rising junior Laurie Navarro, from France, was visiting her aunt in Christiansburg this summer and sought a fun and fascinating camp that would allow her to explore her love of science. At Summer Bridge, she found just that and a "large group of new friends," she said.
Ann Teconchuk, a rising senior from Richmond, participated in the Genes, Molecules and Medicine group. A Summer Bridge veteran, Teconchuk said the professors and the hands-on experience attracted her to the program for a second year.
"I really enjoy the classtime with our professors," she said. "They connect with us."
In addition to the classroom activities, Summer Bridge's itinerary also included day trips where students could "see the science in action." Trips included a visit to Areva Nuclear Power in Lynchburg; Novozymes in Salem; an anthropological exploration at the Selu Conservancy in Montgomery County; and a geological exploration at Mountain Lake Conservancy in Giles County.
Actively participating in fieldwork that is true to STEM professions helped many students begin shaping their future career plans.
Rising junior Shreya Shetty of Glen Allen wants to pursue a career in health care.
"I thought this would help me figure out if this was the right career for me," she said.
On July 16, Shetty joined the rest of the Summer Bridge participants at the closing banquet where she reflected on a "life-changing" week of learning.
"Summer Bridge definitely impacted me," she said. "I was really impressed by the labs, and I plan to participate again next year."
The 2015 Summer Bridge sponsors were: Areva Nuclear Power; BAE Systems; Cliff and Donna Boyd; Jessie Ball DuPont Fund; Lynchburg Community Trust; Novozymes Biologicals; Orbital-ATK; Dale Parris MBA '85 and M.S. '12; Harry and Zoe Poole Foundation; and Upward Bound Martinsville.