Partnership Gives Students Hands-On Training

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Middle school students attending the Verizon Innovative Learning Summer Camp receive instructions from program facilitators in a computer science lab at TSU. Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations

By Emmanuel Freeman

TSU Media Relations

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Through a partnership with Verizon, TSU has joined 15 other HBCUs across the country to teach minority middle school students skills like coding, 3D design and robotics.

The Verizon Innovative Learning Program is intended to engage students in grades 6-8 to interact with technology through on-campus summer-intensive courses, as well as year-round mentoring. The Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering is coordinating the program at TSU.

This summer, more than 60 area middle school students participated in one of two sessions on campus. For two weeks the students and teachers built several mobile apps for Android, did hands-on labs, and visited the Adventure Science Center in Nashville.

Dr. Tamara Rogers, associate professor of computer science, is the coordinator of the Verizon program at TSU. She said the students also designed and created their own apps using tools like the MIT App Inventor, an innovative beginner’s introduction to programming and app creation.

“Parents and supporters were invited to the showcase where the students presented and demonstrated their apps,” Rogers said.

Students in the program will continue throughout the academic year. Once a month they will come to the TSU campus and work on their mobile apps, Rogers said.

Also this summer, the TSU College of Engineering is hosting the first STEM Academy for the 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee.

According to Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the college, about 50 African-American males in grades 5-8 from Nashville Metro Public Schools are participating in the four-week program, which ends July 21. They are learning computer programming, coding and robotics.

The objective of this partnership with the 100 Black Men, Hargrove said, is to “promote potential careers in Information Technology and other STEM occupations.”

Lori Adukeh, executive director of the 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, who is coordinating the academy, said the program is intended to introduce the youth to different aspects of STEM.

“This is not just code or science related, it’s everything,” Adukeh said. “We are doing a lot of hands-on experiments where the boys are creating and building things with their hands. They are using a lot of thought-provoking and intuitive skills, from formulating an idea to actually building it with their hands.”

Adukeh said support from Dean Hargrove, TSU students and Metro teachers in the program has been very helpful.

“These students are learning so much in this inaugural STEM Academy thanks to Tennessee State University and dean Hargrove and all the resources they have put at our disposal, including TSU students who have been working with us as mentors,” she said.

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