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STEM Cubs ignites students’ curiosity for engineering

A boy and a girl collaborate on a project while a counselor looks on.

The camp incorporates STEM concepts into fun activities that resonant with students and show them these seemingly challenging subjects are exciting and doable.

The College of Engineering’s STEM Cubs had students from kindergarten through fifth grade roaring about STEM.

STEM Cubs is a day camp aimed at increasing access to science, technology, engineering and math for lower income and underrepresented minority students. Held three times a year, the fall edition focused on structure building. The camp incorporates STEM concepts into fun activities that resonant with students and show them these seemingly challenging subjects are exciting and doable.

Take the kindergarten class for example. Students built houses based off the age-old fable the “Three Little Pigs” putting them to the test of the big bad wolf. Second and third graders were tasked with making the strongest structures possible out of paper and tape with some standing about four feet tall.

Hilary Mueller, the director of the Office of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives for the College, wants the camp to show students what’s possible.

“It’s all about visibility. If they don’t have any exposure to it, they never consider it,” she said. “And if they’re never told that it’s an option for them, it seems out of reach by the time they get to high school or college.”

STEM Cubs has been so successful that applications increased from 185 students last year to 350 this year, according to Muller. And for about 90 percent of this year’s cubs, it was their first time, giving them a lively, interactive introduction to STEM.

Theresa Metz, the director of diversity and inclusion for the College of Education, collaborated with the College to organize this event. She wants students to engage with STEM and see firsthand that it’s nothing like the boring reputation it often gets.

“Again, that concept of access that ‘I can do this. And it is interesting, and it is fun,’” Metz said. “We do science every day just by getting up and breathing, so making that connection is really important.”

The camp wouldn’t have been possible without student volunteers from the College. Classes were taught by volunteers from MU’s National Society of Black Engineers, allowing the kids to be mentored by excelling engineering leaders.

NSBE President Danae Nash hoped the students saw engineering’s diversity and learned that anyone can be an engineer.

“I feel like it’s good to get them started young, just so that’s in their mind. You can be an engineer— anyone can. There’s no specific face to an engineer,” she said. “If you really want to, and you put your mind to it, you can do it.”

STEM Cubs is a collaborative event between the College of Engineering, College of Education and the Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity’s Access and Leadership Development unit.

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