Intro to Circuitry

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Do you know a student who would love to spend part of the summer flying drones, hunting fossils or designing a website? The Sally Ride Science Junior Academy is now registering students for hands-on summer classes, including dozens of innovative and exciting new offerings.

The 2018 Junior Academy, from June 25 to July 20 at Mission Bay High School, will offer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) classes for students entering grades 6 through 12. This summer’s academy features roughly twice as many courses as last year’s.

“We are so grateful to partner with the San Diego Unified School District at Mission Bay High School to deliver the best STEAM courses to students from all areas of San Diego,” said Dr. Ed Abeyta, associate dean for community engagement and director of pre-college and career preparation programs for UC San Diego Extension.

Sally Ride Science, cofounded by America’s first woman in space to promote diversity in science education, became part of UC San Diego in 2015 and launched the Junior Academy in 2016.

Most classes have one week of half-day sessions, but this summer there are also new multi-week courses that allow high school students to earn college prep credit. Another new feature is an option to enroll students for early drop-off and late pick-up.

The 2018 course lineup incorporates feedback from the Junior Academy’s first two summers, said Dr. Debi Kilb, a seismologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography who is the science outreach director for Sally Ride Science.

For example, she said, “There was a high demand for tech classes last year, so this year we are including more tech class options.” New tech topics include DIY drones, 3D computer modeling and Arduino programming.

Other new half-day courses cover a wide range of STEAM topics, including:

  • Astrobiology: Students in this 1-week course investigate how life persists in extreme environments on Earth and then explore the potential for life beyond our planet.
  • Living Structure: Walking Beasts: In this 1-week course, students work together to build a fantastical contraption that walks on its own with no motor or batteries.
  • Stress Basics & Stress Busters: This 2-week course explores how stress affects the body and introduces high school students to mindfulness techniques for managing stress.
  • Introduction to Python Programming: In this 4-week course, high school students use the Python programming language to develop an arcade game.

Also offered will be popular workshops from past academies, including Introduction to Robotics, Space Out!, Messy Science and Culinary Chemistry. Click here to see the full list of courses and to register.

Inspiring instructors

Junior Academy instructors include graduate students from Scripps Oceanography, undergraduates from UC San Diego, and local artists and science educators. In addition to teaching the material, the instructors serve as role models.

“When our students see the passion our instructors exhibit about learning new topics and the importance placed on not always having the right answer, but always being willing to explore, they can envision themselves doing the same thing some day,” Kilb noted. “They say, ‘If she can do it, I can, too.’”

One of the instructors is Kristine Khieu, a senior bioengineering major at UC San Diego who aspires to become a physician for the space program. Khieu also serves as president of Tritons for Sally Ride Science, a campus club that supports Sally Ride Science’s programs.

Khieu is teaching three middle school workshops – Rocket Science, Mission to Mars: Scratch Programming and Gliders: Engineering Challenge. “Theses are classes I wish I could have taken when I was in middle school,” she explained. “I have an interest in engineering, but I also have incredible enthusiasm for space sciences, and I’ve intertwined these interests into interactive classes.”

Each Junior Academy workshop enriches the science or technology topic by including an art component. “Art is a great way to make science more interactive,” Khieu said. “Art can connect students with the topic in a different way than just pure science, allowing many of the students to feel more comfortable investigating the topic.”

Enrollment options

Junior Academy courses are designated either for middle school or high school students. Sally Ride Science has a focus on encouraging girls in STEAM fields, but both girls and boys are welcome in the workshops.

Parents can enroll students in morning sessions, afternoon sessions, or both. Different rates apply for courses that run for 1 week, 2 weeks or 4 weeks. Those who register by April 2 will receive a $25 discount on 1-week workshops. Participants can earn 6 units of college prep credit for the 4-week courses and 3 units for the 2-week course.

Scholarships will be available for San Diego Unified School District students who receive free or reduced-price lunches. Scholarship sponsors include the Hellman Foundation, Soroptimist International of San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric and San Diego Unified.

The Junior Academy continues Ride’s science education legacy and recognizes her long affiliation with UC San Diego. After leaving NASA, Ride became a physics professor at the university. Then, in 2001, she joined with her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, and three other friends to found Sally Ride Science. Their goal was to inspire students, especially girls, to study science and to consider careers in science and engineering. Ride died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.

Since joining UC San Diego, Sally Ride Science has been based at UC San Diego Extension. O’Shaughnessy is executive director of Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego.

Nearly 400 students took part in the first Junior Academy in 2016. In 2017, more than 500 students attended. This year’s enrollment is expected to be around 1,000.