NSU hosts S.T.E.A.M. tour for area 9th graders

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University, in partnership with the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOFSA), hosted the inaugural S.T.E.A.M. tour for about 150 ninth graders from four high schools in the region. 

Students visited several departments on campus to learn academic and career opportunities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

“Throughout the day, they toured campus, met college students and faculty and saw first-hand how interdisciplinary tools and projects enhance education and prepare students for innovative work in the modern world,” said Steve Gruesbeck, who coordinated the event with Dr. Jafar Al-Sharab, head of NSU’s Department of Engineering Technology.

Students from Red River High School, Lincoln Preparatory, Many High School and Converse High School participated.

“They are hearing from two representatives from each discipline to show how these areas intersect,” Gruesbeck said.  “For instance, we’ve paired Computer Information Systems with biology where students can see how virtual technology is applicable to health science.” 

Faculty also presented demonstrations in fine arts, culinary arts and engineering technology to show how those fields complement each other and students were able to view NSU’s Mazda Rotary Art Car, an interdisciplinary experiential learning project.  The day also included the New Media Student Showcase and a performance by the Out On A Limb Improv Troupe.

LOSFA’s partnership in the S.T.E.A.M. tour was orchestrated through Louisiana GEAR UP (Louisiana Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a federally funded national initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Education which gives grants to states or institutions of higher learning to create partnerships with high-poverty middle or high schools.  In partnership with 16 school districts, LA GEAR UP aims to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. 

NSU’s S.T.E.A.M. tour was a preview to upcoming separate, but related week-long camps this summer for students in LA GEAR UP parishes, including Red River and Sabine.  Camp Locomotion will be July 8-12 to study movement of humans and robots.  Energy Camp July 15-19 will focus on light and sound energy.  Robotics Camp will be July 22-26 and Advanced Robotics will be July 29-Aug. 1.  On Fridays each camp will include an off-site educational and career-oriented field trip.

“Robots are a great STEAM tool because they combine so many principles at one time such as engineering, problem-solving and team work. In addition, robots play a significant role in advanced manufacturing and smart factories,” Sharab said. Students will also learn about safety, electrical and digital electronics and robot programming.