STEM program begins officially
The beginning of the school year also marked the first official year of STEM Academy.
The 18 students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Academy had their first monthly meeting in September, led by STEM coordinators Courtney Hugo and Jorge Piquer. Piquer teaches science and is currently earning his second masters degree in STEM education, while Hugo teaches mathematics and science.
STEM students, only from this year’s freshmen class, have the opportunity to take Honors Algebra II, Advanced Algebra II, biology, earth science, intro to drawing, and Computer Aided Design (CAD) I. These students are required to take seven credits for each year of high school, which must include one math, one science, and one engineering elective a year. They also must maintain a B average in their STEM classes to remain in the program.
According to Piquer and Hugo, students cannot join the STEM Academy later than freshmen year because the required courses start freshmen year.
“There have been a few scheduling problems because [STEM students] do have to make adjustments. They can’t always take what they want every year,” Piquer said.
“If you have all these other things you want to take and you won’t budge, then sometimes STEM won’t work for you. You’ve got to be able to get those classes in your schedule when they’re scheduled,” Hugo said.
For the activities within the academy, Piquer and Hugo have planned a field trip to go to the robotics laboratory at Johns Hopkins in November. Also on the agenda is a project that each student must complete.
“They’re going to have to do a small project. It would be like a very much scaled-down version of their senior projects,” Hugo said.
According to Principal Madelyn Ball, the STEM Academy has two major events planned so far this year. There will be a STEM Academy and Beyond night Oct. 9 for fourth through sixth graders interested in hands-on science and engineering. The second event is a STEM Day Nov. 10 for seventh and eighth graders of Harford County.
Ball is already looking forward to next year to add more STEM class options to the curriculum.
“[Piquer and Hugo] have made lots of suggestions to make our program more flexible so that if somebody really has an interest in biomedical [engineering], they’ll be able to guide them into what courses they ought to be taking here in high school. Then if somebody is more into engineering or mechanical engineering they can suggest some other courses. So we need to increase our number of courses to meet their needs. A lot of it is going to depend on the interest of the kids,” Ball said.
Freshman STEM student Andrew Ruff said, “I think just about every kind of high paying job involves math, science, technology, and engineering.”
Hugo and Piquer hope to add computer programming, forensics, anatomy, physiology, and CAD II to the STEM Academy’s resume.
“Maybe next year if we have more time, we’ll be able to plan more field trips or more guest speakers or more activities for the STEM kids,” Hugo said.
UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, who spoke to the student on body on Sept. 18, advocated for the pillars of the STEM Academy, discussing the need for math and science.
According to Ball, Hrabowski came to JC because of a conversation he had with President Richard O’Hara last year, which included the fact that JC was beginning a STEM Academy.
“He was very excited because he feels as though what we’re doing matches a lot of what he’s doing [at UMBC]. He’s really big into STEM,” Ball said.
“What I’m looking forward to getting out of this is a better education than other people,” Ruff said.
“It’s still really early. The kids have only had one meeting. After that first field trip, I think we’ll see better,” Piquer said.
Emily Clarke is a reporter for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.