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Access to “Out of School” learning experiences can play a prominent role in introducing low-income students to STEM projects and leading them down a pathway to a STEM career. Out of school programs, such as summer camps and afterschool activities, encourage alternative ways of learning complex material related to math and science (National Research Council, Learning Science in Informal Environments, 2009). 

However, many low-income youth do not take part in summer day camps. More than 3,000 of the 7,000 households receiving housing assistance through the housing choice voucher program (HCV) are led by low-income single parents. Although many of these families may be eligible for some assistance from the Montgomery County Department of Recreation, funding is limited. There is not enough of assistance to meet the high demand for financial help with summer camp registrations.

STEM Summer Day Camps

Each year Community Partners, Inc. in collaboration with HOC, coordinates summer day camps that bring STEM activities in robotics and scientific research to low-income youth. At HOC subsidized housing communities, the Kids’ STEM Summer Program offer robotics to students from grades 1-8. The program runs four hours a day, five days a week for two weeks. Teachers with specialties in STEM conduct hands-on activities following the LEGO® robotics curricula. Participants work in pairs with their own robotics kit. At the end of the camp, the kids show off their robotic creations in a friendly competition.

Also, low-income middle school youth are inspired to be STEM researchers. In partnership with Learning Undefeated, Community Partners and HOC conduct a 30-hour summer day camp for rising seventh and eighth graders, with a focus on underserved students (defined as minority, female, low- income, and first in their family to go to college). This specialized day camp engages students in authentic research experiences and tours of Maryland STEM research organizations to promote positive attitudes and confidence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each day after touring these fascinating laboratories, the youth conduct their own age-appropriate laboratory activities that align with local, state, and national curriculum standards. These activities include common bioscience techniques such as DNA extraction and agarose gel electrophoresis, and relevant themes such as alternative fuels, bioengineering, and crime scene investigation.

Every year kids show genuine enthusiasm to learn the concepts of robotics, using math, physics and computer programming.

Participants consistently show the following results:

  • 100% successfully built a functional robot
  • 83% reported an increased interest in science and math
  • 59% reported an intention to enroll in more STEM afterschool activities