Jumping into the Game of Research: STEM Enrichment for Local Students

Clarkson welcomed local 7-12th grade students and teachers from Norwood-Norfolk, Harrisville, Heuvelton, Colton-Pierrepont, and Brasher Falls. to campus for STEM enrichment this October. The middle school students kicked off the Game On Challenge, designed to spark interest in computer science and foster creativity. Using the Scratch software platform developed at MIT, students played a simulated game of Corn Hole with a focus on launch angles and projectile motion. Then, they stepped back and considered what went into designing a fun, realistic video game. The Game On Challenge asks students to design and program a series of video games using an amusement park theme and use storytelling to pitch their ideas. The winner gets an iPad but more importantly will have leveled up through a range of programming activities, building computational thinking, problem-solving, and modeling skills along the way. Graduate students Joe Judge (Computer Science), Feddie Amoah-Darko (Mathematics) and undergraduate helper Sam Weinberg from the STEM Ed Living Learning Community developed and led the activity.

Kaylee Simmons-Noel and Brayden Whalen of Heuvelton work with Dr. Ali Boolani to analyze optimal jumping strategies

To spark interest in research, the high school students worked with Dr. Ali Boolani to determine the optimal jumping movement for both the vertical and broad jump. Groups of students experimented with different foot positions, arm swing movements, and amount of leg bending to determine which form was optimal to improve jump performance in both the vertical and horizontal planes. The activity was supported by undergraduate volunteer Kimberly Doyle.

The activities were part of Clarkson University’s  New York State Department of Education Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), with funding of nearly $1.6M for 2020-2025. STEP provides students with academic enrichment and research experience in science, mathematics, and technology content areas and consists of summer and academic year components. Activities range from a computer programming game challenge, conducting original research projects for a statewide competition, interacting with college mentors and licensed STEM professionals, to designing and analyzing a model roller coaster. 

STEP, usually referred to as IMPETUS (Integrated Math and Physics for Entry to Undergraduate STEM),  has been in existence at Clarkson since 2006 and is funded jointly by the University to support 180 7-12th grade students annually. Drs. Katie Kavanagh (Mathematics) and Mike Ramsdell (Physics) are the program directors with support from faculty fellows, Drs. Josh Thomas (Physics), Jen Knack (Psychology), and Ali Boolani (Physical Therapy). The program has traditionally served 11 school districts across St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties as well as Beacon Central School District with coordination by Asher Pacht, Brigette Walsh, and the Beacon Institute.


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