Report: 8th-grade students still lag in science

A student standing in front of the periodic table of elements.One of the main catalysts behind the creation of Innovate Kentucky was the fact that American students are lagging behind the rest of the world in math and science. A recent article from ECN Magazine claims that seven out of 10 of eighth-graders are not considered proficient in science.

You can read this article here.

See Blue STEM Camp LEGO Robotics Class Photos

The LEGO Robotics class at the See Blue STEM Camp was a hive of activity the day Innovate Kentucky visited. After constructing their robots the day before, campers set out to program their robots to perform a series of tasks. The first few tasks, which challenged campers to move their robot a set distance and back without knocking over a LEGO figurine, were a warm-up compared to the second set of tasks.

The second set of tasks required campers to program their robots to navigate through an obstacle course and land within a designated area. After that, campers would program their robots to complete the same challenge backwards. It was a challenging task that required precise programming and plenty of trial and error on the part of the campers.

See Blue STEM Camp Engineering Class Photos

On the day Innovate Kentucky visited the See Blue STEM Camp engineering class, campers were busy with two different activities.

The first was creating a DC motor out of a battery, paper clips, rubber bands and a wire. Using the rubber bands to hold the paper clips in place against both ends of the battery, campers were amazed when the circle of wire suspended between the paper clips began to spin.

The second activity tasked campers with building a free-standing tower out of K’Nex building toys. With the restriction in place that campers couldn’t speak during the construction phase, the task was extra challenging but campers still managed to build some impressive towers.

Episode 5: Tamara & Stephanie, Co-Founders of Inxpression

Inxpression co-founders Tamara Dickerson & Stephanie WardNorthern Kentucky University graduates Tamara Dickerson and Stephanie Ward started with an innovative idea: make the process of creating custom t-shirts easier and more affordable. That led Tamara and Stephanie to create Inxpression, a company that sells custom t-shirts out of a vending machine. If you’ve got five minutes and $20, an Inxpression machine can create a custom t-shirt with any design you like.

In this episode of the Innovation Update, Stephanie and Tamara talk about how their idea came about and where they are in the entrepreneurial process. They also share some advice with young innovators who might be on the precipice of turning their idea into an actuality.


Episode 4: Dr. Craig Schroeder, Director of See Blue STEM Camp

See Blue STEM CampThe See Blue STEM Camp was held June 11-15 at the College of Education building on the University of Kentucky’s campus. Under the direction of Dr. Craig Schroeder, who started the camp in 2010 at Jessie Clark Middle School in Lexington, the camp taught 70 6-8th graders about STEM through classes in neurobiology, astronomy, math, engineering and LEGO robotics.

In this episode of the Innovation Update, Josh talks with Dr. Schroeder about his camp and the need for summer programming in the STEM fields.


See Blue STEM Camp: Thoughts from the Campers

Listen to students as they talk about their experiences at the See Blue STEM Camp, which was held June 11-15 at the College of Education building on the University of Kentucky’s campus. Students learned about the STEM disciplines by taking classes in neurobiology, astronomy, mathematics, engineering and LEGO robotics.

See Blue STEM Camp

See Blue STEM Camp Group Photo

The NXT LEGO robot rolled forward, turned sharp left and – much to the horror of its creator – started veering off its intended course, crossing the line surrounding the designated checkpoint and eliciting a fresh wave of frustration.

“No!” exclaimed Rishi Alluri, throwing up his arms in defeat. Gathering his wayward robot, Rishi returned to a nearby computer for another round of programming. He’d consider if the degree of the turn was miscalculated, or if perhaps the distance was off by a fraction of an inch.

These are the type of questions Rishi and his classmates had to consider as they participated in the LEGO robotics class at the See Blue STEM Camp, which was held June 11-15 at the College of Education building on the campus of the University of Kentucky.

Rishi AlluriRather than lay around all summer, Rishi and 69 other campers in 6-9th grade decided to challenge their brains with a week’s worth of learning in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The See Blue STEM Camp offered classes in engineering, math, neurobiology, astronomy and LEGO robotics.

To ensure that everyone received a balanced learning experience, all campers were required to take each of the classes.

The idea for a STEM camp arose from the mind of Dr. Craig Schroeder, who started the program in 2010 at Jessie Clark Middle School in Lexington with eight campers. That number increased threefold in 2011, and thanks to a grant from the Math Clinic at UK, the camp was able to open its doors to students from across the state and increase its enrollment to 70 this year.

“I want to get kids involved with activities they don’t think are STEM,” Schroeder said. “Students see math and science as just subjects in school. I want to give them activities at this young age where they can blossom and see things that they can do with their life.”

Given the response Schroeder saw when he opened the camp up to all of Kentucky, there’s a strong desire among young students to learn about STEM.

“We accepted 70 but we had 140 on our registration list,” Schroeder said. “We turned a lot of students away so we’re going to work next year to see if we could do two weeks or figure out a way logistically that we could get them all in. Because I hate turning down students.”

Schroeder said anyone who was turned away will have first crack at registering for the 2013 See Blue STEM Camp, which means there’s still hope for the 70 students who didn’t get to attend in 2012.

See Blue STEM Camp Engineering classThis year’s campers shared a common interest in the STEM fields and especially liked the amount of hands-on activities the camp offered. Quinn Andrews said she enjoyed building a spectrometer in astronomy and making a DC motor in her engineering class.

“Some of my classes in school are really just books and I like it more when we get to do stuff like that,” she said.

The 2011 See Blue STEM camp impressed Brian Johnston so much he decided to come back in 2012.

“I came last year and it was a pretty interesting camp so I decided it would be a really fun thing to do again,” Brian said. “I enjoy the technology and science, and since I’m a kinetic learner, I do best with hands-on stuff.”

With a slate of challenging classes, a group of brilliant and passionate teachers, and a line-up of guest speakers meant to inspire the campers, Schroeder hopes the See Blue STEM Camp will help lay the foundation for the state’s next generation of innovators and thought leaders.

“As far as Kentucky goes, we need to bring in leaders and develop those leaders,” he said. “We can’t just give them the summer off to do that.”

See photo galleries from the engineering and LEGO robotics classes.

Watch a video with thoughts from the students on why they chose to come to camp.

Listen to a podcast in which Dr. Craig Schroeder talks about the See Blue STEM Camp.

Episode 3: Rohit Shukla, CEO of the Larta Institute

Rohit Shukla“Global dispersion of talent, capital, ideas, technology and markets has made the game of innovation more complex and more exciting.”

Those words help describe the lecture given by Rohit Shukla, CEO of the Larta Institute, at the 8th Annual KIEC on June 1 in Louisville. The lecture was entitled “Innovation and Entrepreneurs: A Network-Centric Approach” and focused on a more global look at the process of innovation.

Mr. Shukla was kind enough to allow his lecture to be included as an episode of the Innovation Update. So in this third episode we break away from Innovate Kentucky’s state-centric look at innovation and embrace the notion on a much larger scale.


Episode 2: Goldwater Honorable Mentions Josiah Hanna & David Spencer

david and josiahThe University of Kentucky’s Josiah Hanna and David Spencer were recently named honorable mentions for the prestigious Goldwater scholarship. Hanna, a sophomore out of Lexington, majors in computer science and mathematics and has been researching artificial intelligence planning under uncertainty. Spencer, a junior from Paducah, is pursuing a chemical engineering degree. Spencer has been involved in research that has focused on nanoparticles and hydragels and their application in drug delivery.

In this episode of the podcast, Josh talks with both students about their research and why it’s important for young students – and Kentucky as a whole – to embrace innovative thinking.


2012 Goldwater Recipient Charles Coomer

Charles Coomer, a junior in the Honors College at WKU, has been involved in microbiological research for two years. In the lab of Dr. Rodney King, associate professor of biology, Coomer is characterizing viruses that infect bacterial cells so that they can be sorted into different clusters. Before beginning his research, he was enrolled the Genome Discovery and Exploration Course at WKU, a part of the National Genomics Research Initiative, where he first worked with Dr. King.