STEM's Rockets Red Glare: UB's Math and Science Summer Workshop Lights Up the Sky

Release Date: August 27, 2009 This content is archived.


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UB's STEM Program offered some of the area's most promising middle and high school students a chance to hone their science and math skills.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Many of the area's most promising middle and high school science and math students shared notes, participated in hands-on activities and interacted with some of the University at Buffalo's distinguished faculty during the four-day Passport STEM program held last week on UB's South (Main Street) Campus.

The 48 students representing a cross-section of Western New York secondary schools were given the chance to learn from university professors who are leaders in their fields. And because it was another installment of UB's STEM program -- which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -- they did it in a personal and informal way, in a setting that encouraged student-mentor relationships and open discussions about pursuing science and math in college and beyond.

"The inaugural 2009 Passport STEM program was a huge success in terms of engaging local middle and high school students in various facets of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Eric D. Vosburgh, director of program development, research and evaluation in the Center for Educational Collaboration, which organized and supervised the workshop.

"Faculty and staff from various science-related departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences not only had an opportunity to present their areas of specialty and research at UB, but students were afforded an opportunity to sit down and talk face-to-face with scientists and engineers, and discover the unique stories behind their educational and career pathways."

The students received accelerated academic training and hands-on experience in activities intended to be as engaging for the students as they were enjoyable for the professors and staff taking part in the classes. Among the activities were a science scavenger hunt, video production projects and a series of model rocket launches in less-than-perfect weather outside UB's Allen Hall, supervised by Vosburgh.

"We had 12 groups of four students each named after elements in the periodic table," said Vosburgh. "Each team built and launched a model rocket. NASA would not have launched the rockets under these conditions, but it was extremely fun and exhilarating for the students, from the Hydrogens to the Nitrogens."

These activities, which also included a tour of the architecture exhibition in UB's Dyett Gallery led by Brian Carter, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, supported the program's goal to encourage students to pursue study and local careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"It was particularly exciting to see senior research faculty engaging with area youth in such a personable and genuine way," said Mara B. Huber, special assistant to the president for educational initiatives. "Not only were the kids obviously into it, but you could tell that the researchers were enjoying themselves too.

"Our goal for STEM is to excite and engage students in STEM education and career pathways. We cannot help prepare youth for these important opportunities without first letting them know that they exist and motivating them to learn more."

Huber said UB intends to continue these accelerated summer youth programs and add additional programming, such as a residential camp next summer. More information about STEM initiatives is available at

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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