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Hamilton entities push STEM skills for students

Following national discussions about the need to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and math skills and careers for students across the United States, schools and organizations in Hamilton are boosting their STEM offerings to deliver results locally.

Stephen T. Badin High School, 571 New London Rd., invested in a new STEM lab this school year to prepare its students for college-level science, math and engineering courses.

Directed by the national nonprofit Project Lead the Way, which is dedicated to increasing the quality and quantity of science and technology graduates in the United States, Badin now offers an Introduction to Engineering and Design course available for students in all grades to take as an elective. The school received a $700 grant from the Butler Rural Electric Cooperative to enhance their course via the purchase of scales, calipers, and mathlink cubes. The new STEM lab is still being outfitted, but will include 24 new computers equipped with programming for three-dimensional solid modeling and animation, Ferguson said.

“We start with Introduction to Engineering and Design, then next year, we will add a new class called Principles of Engineering,” said Emily Ferguson, Badin’s new engineering teacher. “Those are the two core foundation classes that set them up with the skills that they need to get into other fields.”

From there, Badin and other schools in the Project Lead the Way program can add more tailored engineering courses, such as aerospace engineering or civil engineering.

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“Ultimately, the students come in as freshmen and they take engineering all four years so that they are ready for college,” Ferguson said.

Badin Director of Admissions and Media Relations Dirk Allen said that the STEM lab initiative was a combination of the administrative team and the school board asking what they could do to improve the academic programming. With more and more schools implementing STEM classes in their curriculum, Badin didn’t want to drop behind, and currently 81 students signed up for the Intro to Engineering class.

“That’s not too shabby for the first year,” said Allen. “Technology is so important in life now that the skills that you get through STEM — that’s kind of where the jobs are now. You’re trying to help students be prepared to get ready for the world of work.”

Local nonprofits are also providing resources for children of lower opportunity to gain the skills they need to compete for careers. The YWCA Hamilton began an eight-week course for girls to learn STEM skills on Monday. TechGYRLS is a national YWCA initiative, tailored to fit the local branch’s need.

“We definitely saw a need for increasing our STEM presence in the community,” said April Hamlin, literacy director for the YWCA. “We want to encourage and empower these girls into looking into the STEM fields, because they’re completely underrepresented.”

The TechGYRLS course is open to girls in grades 6-8, and seeks to bring more female students into the science, math, engineering, and technology tracks. This specific course teaches the enrollees how to build a garden in limited space, such as windows.

“The girls are going to be learning how to engineer a vertical farm, which is really a new concept,” Hamlin said. “The idea is to try and conserve resources in an urban environment.”

Spaces are still available in the 12-slot course, and Hamlin said the YWCA aims to offer four STEM-geared courses throughout the year, each focusing on a different discipline. The pilot program was awarded to the nonprofit as part of a grant program by the national curriculum Education Is Elementary (EIE), which supplies a project-based engineering curriculum for schools and after-school programs and was developed by the Museum of Science in Boston.

The EIE provides the materials for the free pilot course, as well as materials for other courses provided by the YWCA, Hamlin said. But even after the funding for the pilot program is spent, the nonprofit hopes to continue to offer the next TechGYRLS courses free to the public.

“We want to encourage STEM learning beyond the normal school day,” Hamlin said.

TechGYRLS is held on Mondays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the YWCA Hamilton, 244 Dayton St. Those interested in attending can fill out a registration sheet online at ywcahamilton.com or in person at the YWCA Hamilton.

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