The energy in the STEM Discovery Lab was palpable as students and parents arrived at the historic mill on a Tuesday night in October and took their place in the new technology, physics, and engineering labs at UNH Manchester. Here, the students will spend Tuesday evenings for the next five weeks learning about topics ranging from video game development and 3D animation, to space exploration and the mathematics behind texting. After much anticipation, this was the first class to experience the UNH Manchester STEM Discovery Lab. UNH Manchester’s STEM Discovery Lab creates a challenging, hands-on learning community where K-12 students and teachers can engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and language arts through a research-based curriculum. Cultivating passion and improving attitudes towards STEM disciplines at an early age is essential to increasing the STEM pipeline in New Hampshire. The STEM Discovery Lab is part of the larger University System initiative to double the number of STEM graduates by 2025. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas was at the new lab to welcome the students, most of whom live in the city. “The STEM Discovery Lab opening was an exciting evening and the students were so eager to start learning,” said Mayor Gatsas. “I want to thank UNH Manchester for starting this exciting partnership in conjunction with Granite United Way, Mill Falls Charter School and Beech Street Elementary School. It takes great partnerships like these to make our community stronger and help put our students on the path to success.” The pilot program includes more than 120 students in grades 4 through 12 from partner organizations Granite United Way, Mill Falls Charter School, and Beech Street Elementary school. Ali Rafieymehr, Dean of UNH Manchester, was energized by the excitement of the students and parents at the opening night. “This evening was just the start. Students will greatly benefit from this program,” said Rafieymehr. “This is what I call a great K-16 pathway!” “While Granite United Way continues to make major investments to improve literacy for thousands of students throughout New Hampshire, we recognize that it isn't enough to know just how to read and write,” says Patrick Tufts, president of Granite United Way. “To make our children competitive in college and careers, they have to be literate in the critical areas of science, math and technology.” The programs offered in the STEM Discovery Lab’s pilot session include Orion’s Quest, a NASA program for students in grades 4-6, taught by Dr. Lauren Provost, a professor in UNH’s Department of Education. The students analyze and evaluate photos of real butterflies and worms in space and submit their own authentic data to the NASA scientist conducting a research mission. A course in 3D Animation begins next week for elementary students and will be taught by UNH Manchester Dean Ali Rafieymehr. Texting Olympics is being offered to students in grades 6-8. The class, taught by Ben Payeur, an electrical engineer with PSNH, and covers the complex mathematical concepts behind texting. Mobile App Development, also offered to students in grades 6-8, is an introduction to mobile phone app development and fundamental computer science concepts. The course is taught by Eric Beikman, an engineer with DEKA and a 2013 graduate of the computer information systems program at UNH Manchester. Video Game Development teaches students in high school the core fundamentals of computer programming by creating three-dimensional video games. The course is taught by Nigel Swanson, a sophomore in the computer information systems program at UNH Manchester. High school students interested in a more intensive experience can apply for Engineering in Action, a one-year engineering and programming course, taught by Nick Soggu, Founder and CEO of SilverTech. The course is limited to 16 students and begins in November 2013. A Technology Start-up Bootcamp will be offered in January for high school students eager to become the next entrepreneurs. Students will get hands-on instruction on the fundamental skills needed to create a successful technology start-up business. The course will be taught by Tom “TK” Kuegler, co-founder and general partner of Wasabi Ventures. For more information about UNH Manchester’s STEM Discovery Lab, contact Paul Bencal or Sarah Jacobs at 603-641-4191, or visit the STEM Discovery Lab online.
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