Wayne-Westland middle schoolers learn STEM skills in LTU summer program

SOUTHFIELD — Using 12-foot aluminum poles, middle school students from the Wayne-Westland Community Schools carefully dipped water sample collection jars into the Evans Branch of the Rouge River, a clay-bottomed stream that flows through the campus of Lawrence Technological University.

The effort on a hot, humid Tuesday morning was part of the Summer STEM Series, a four-week series of experiences for middle schoolers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics developed by the Marburger STEM Center at LTU.

An LTU student mentor shows Wayne-Westland students how to pull a soil core sample. LTU photo by Amanda Bitonti.

The students will study water samples from the river water, along with Southfield tap water, distilled water, and water from an LTU fountain. They also took soil samples from the riverbank area and will study how well bok choy seeds grow in that soil, along with commercial potting soil, watering their plants with the various types of water collected. The students make detailed observations and document their findings throughout the week.

Kat Owsley, president of the Bosch Community Fund, which is one of the supporters of the Summer STEM Series, beamed as she watched the students working, and asked them if they could now see themselves working as scientists in the future.

Kat Owsley, president of the Bosch Community Fund, speaks with Wayne-Westland students learning in the Summer STEM Series outside the Marburger STEM Center at LTU. LTU photo by Amanda Bitonti.

“On behalf of the Bosch Community Fund, I was very pleased to recommend this first-time support to LTU for their Summer STEM Series,” Owsley said after her visit. “The program had all the attributes we look for—a university setting for younger students to experience, project-place-problem based learning, mentoring of K-12-aged students by older students, and so many natural features on the campus to incorporate in the students’ learning journey. These are my favorite days when I can go outside and meet the students and speak with them about their interests and reactions to the camp.”

Said Jessen: “At this age, we offer a broad sampling of subjects. Every day of the week we do several different STEM activities.” Besides the environmental analysis work Tuesday, students this week will do everything from culturing bacteria in Petri dishes with samples taken from objects on LTU’s campus to making tiny jet engines. The Summer STEM Series for middle schoolers is funded by a combination of Bosch grants and state and federal funds. Programs are offered at no charge to the students.

Next week, Jessen will take LTU’s 40-foot mobile STEM trailer up to the Upper Peninsula to host a STEM expo in his hometown of Kingsford for its centennial celebration, near the Wisconsin border.

Next year, Jessen said he hopes to expand the program to six weeks of Summer STEM Series for middle schoolers, although the end of some state and federal grants with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency will make that a fundraising challenge.

The Marburger STEM Center at LTU offers hourly, daily, or multi-day programs on a variety of STEM disciplines to area school districts — all free of charge to the school district. For more information on how Jessen can bring a program to your school district — or to support the STEM Center’s efforts through a donation — contact Jessen at jjessen@ltu.edu or (248) 204-2662.

Information on corporate or foundation support for the STEM Center’s programs, including the Summer STEM Series, is available from Mark Brucki, LTU associate vice president for economic development, at (248) 204-2310 or mbrucki@ltu.edu.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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