Summer Bridge sparks scientific curiosity in young female scholars
Dozens of young female scholars visited Radford University this summer to explore their scientific aspirations.
The university’s Artis College of Science and Technology (ACSAT) hosted the annual Summer Bridge Program from July 15-20 for female sophomore, junior and senior high school students. The innovative camp heavily promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Campers, representative of high schools throughout the state and several out-of-state schools, were split into four groups based on their interests: Bits and Bots (electronics, robotics, space, math and physics); Environmental Earth Sciences (geology, mapping and unmanned aerial systems); Cybersecurity and Forensic Science and Genes; and, Molecules and Medicine (biology and chemistry).
Throughout the week, they were taught by current faculty, staff and students who are passionate about STEM and finding creative ways to incorporate science into daily curricula.
On campus, campers flew UAVs (drones), launched rockets, studied skeletons and rock formations and built peptides, just to name a few hands-on activities. Off-campus trips included visits to Mountain Lake, TORC Robotics, Novozymes and Selu Conservancy.
On July 19, the Molecules and Medicine group received a special visit from employees of BAE Systems, which operates the nearby Radford Arsenal.
Situated on more than 7,000 acres in southwestern Virginia, the Radford Army Ammunition Plant was built in the 1940s to support the war effort. It has played an important role in every American conflict since then, and today is the core propellant-manufacturing facility for the U.S. Department of Defense.
According to BAE communications and community relations manager Chris Finley, the company has been sponsoring Summer Bridge for about five years. The partnership is important to the community and the Arsenal, Finley explained, as the need for employees with STEM backgrounds continues to grow.
“There has been a growing concern in the U.S. around the decrease in STEM graduates,” Finley said. “As a defense company, this concern hits close to home as technology and engineering are the lifeblood of our industry. Our employees are investing their time to further STEM education by engaging and supporting both company-sponsored programs and outside organizations that focus on advancing engineering and technology.”
A panel of eight female BAE employees – including several Radford University alumna - explained their jobs at the plant and answered questions from the campers. Following the panel presentation, the girls were split into groups and rotated through three short workshops: Alka-Seltzer rocket launches, a viscosity study and a study on occupational health.
Helping lead the rocket launch was BAE employee Jessica Patton ’11. As a Radford student, Patton helped counsel Summer Bridge campers. She’s come full circle, now counseling the young women as an alumna and BAE employee.
“It’s been really fun to interact with the campers and see them so excited and interested,” Patton said. “This has just been a great way to support our community.”
In addition to BAE Systems, Summer Bridge is sponsored by:
- Dr. Cliff Boyd and Dr. Donna Boyd
- Project Discovery
- Novozymes Biologicals
- Wells Fargo