Sunday, March 13, 2011

Around Town: Who says learning can't be fun?

In the midst of La Cañada’s up-and-down summer school programs (See Valley Sun, 1/12/2011, “Summer-school class hour measure tabled” and 1/27/2011, “Foundation continues with summer school program”), there’s another option. It’s a few thousand miles away. But it’s free.

The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis puts on several summer programs geared toward the sciences.

In addition to the Summer Seminar (See Valley Sun, 2/16/-2011, “Around Town: 'What? You want to go WHERE?'), the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program is geared toward younger students. USNA STEM website

STEM is a week-long summer program focusing on math and science. There will be three sessions: June 6-11 for rising 8th-9th graders, June 13-18 for rising 10th graders and June 20-25 for rising 11th graders.

“Rising” means that the student will enter that grade in the fall.

Only 375 students will be accepted from all over the country. While there is no charge for the program, the students must pay for their own travel expenses.

The folks at the Naval Academy say that engineering is “all about creating, building and making things better…. If you like math and science, you are off to a great start. If you enjoy discovering new things, solving problems, and learning how things work — even better. Creativity, persistence and the desire to make the world a better place are also important qualities.”

A typical week at STEM is as follows:

Monday: Travel and check-in.

Tuesday: Air and Space Museum/Washington, D.C. tour.

Wednesday: So What Really Happened to the Titanic? Challenger? the Ford Pinto? Students will break steel and investigate crash mechanics, examine material fingerprints to characterize technical crimes, visit the Hydro and Fluids labs to study hull designs and structures, and the Aero labs to investigate the forces of nature.

Thursday: Cryptography, Computers and Code, Forensics and Fingerprints. Students will learn how “mathematics, computer science and engineering have been used throughout history to keep messages hidden and cryptic.”

Friday: Biometrics, Electronics, Robotics. “Learn how technological advances in engineering assist in catching criminals, spies and other bad guys. Build and program your robot to master the maze. Wire and solder your own electronic device for voice modulation. A tour of the Biometrics Lab will find you performing iris scans and facial-recognition techniques.”

Saturday: Open House and demonstrations (parents welcome).

Who says learning can’t be fun?

Applications are now being accepted, with a deadline of March 31.

For more information about the Summer STEM Program, see or call the Naval Academy admissions office at (410) 293-4361.

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