Special to The Gazette
This summer, eighth grade Halifax County Middle School student Andrew Hansen was selected from more than 600 applicants statewide to participate in the Virginia Science Technology Engineering and Applied Mathematics (STEAM) Academy’s signature and award-winning program, Summer STEAM on the campuses of Washington & Lee and Virginia Military Institute.
Virginia STEAM Academy is a 501c3 charitable organization. Its summer program has expanded from serving 56 rising sixth-eighth grade students at Old Dominion University in 2013 to serving 186 students at three, separate, week-long sessions in 2016: Old Dominion University, Washington & Lee University in collaboration with Virginia Military Institute, and, for girls-only, Shenandoah University.
Student and family demand have driven program expansion. Since 2013, more than 1,500 students have applied to Summer STEAM. Nearly 500 have been accepted and successfully completed the program.
Summer STEAM ambassadors from across the commonwealth participate in intensive, immersive, residential programming. Five hour/day courses, evening leadership seminars, and recreation and wellness activities are all structured to inspire and expose students to STEAM content, applied learning and leadership development. In addition, each weekly Summer STEAM session offers unique elements such as clubs, community service outreach, structured hackathon, math modeling seminar, microfinancing and entrepreneurship symposium and Women in STEAM Leadership Panel discussion.
For many students, Summer STEAM is their only opportunity to experience the rigor and relationships that evolve out of an intensive, immersive, living-learning laboratory with like-minded, like-motivated peers, exceptional faculty and staff. Grant funding from the Virginia General Assembly, businesses, foundations and private donors allows Virginia STEAM Academy to offer Summer STEAM at no cost to parents.
Since its inception in 2013, Virginia STEAM Academy has been privileged to partner with outstanding middle, high school and university instructors, as well as exceptional industry and business leaders to deliver Summer STEAM. This year’s courses were water conservation; health careers; water and art; rockets, ships and material science; light and lasers; math in sports; data science and statistics + python programming and robotics; health care and computer database analysis; games, puzzles and logic; and engineering, innovation and invention. Over the years, Virginia STEAM Academy has offered additional courses in math reasoning; encryption; math modeling; mathematical patterns in nature; physics; computer engineering, agricultural life sciences; cyber security; nanoscience; and forensic, anthropology and bioarchaelogy.
W&L Professors David Marsh and Simon Levy team taught the Data Science and Statistics + Python Programming and Robotics course. VMI Professors George M. Brooke IV and John David taught Light and Lasers and Math in Sports, respectively. Sera-Brynn, a leading cyber risk management firm, sponsored the Virginia STEAM Academy’s first structured hackathon. VMI Cadet John Cima led evening math modeling sessions. All courses and symposia were exceptionally well received.
In 2016, the Virginia Mathematics and Science Consortium recognized Virginia STEAM with a “Programs that Work” award.