Area students in grades three through eight attended one of two camps offered at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research this week.  The camps highlighted STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a focus on agriculture.  Campers used Minecraft to test their virtual farming skills including growing crops and selecting trees and animals for their land.  Campers also explored drones by building FPG-9 gliders and flying propcopters.  IALR Senior Scientist Dr. Scott Lowman demonstrated how scientists and growers are using unmanned systems, including an AgBot, to learn more about the overall health and needs of crops.

"This camp has given youth the opportunity to put three seemingly different topics (coding, drones, and agriculture) together to form realistic solutions to realistic issues in today's society," said Mandi Dolan, Pittsylvania County 4-H Extension Agent.

The Institute developed the camps in partnership with Danville and Pittsylvania County Virginia Cooperative Extension representatives.

"For some youth, this is the first time they have been exposed to how STEM topics can integrate into traditional trades, like agriculture.  It gives youth the vision to revolutionize the way precision agriculture is done, and expand their field of view to the variety of STEM careers they can pursue," said Daniel Hale, Danville 4-H Extension Agent.

In 2016, the Institute provided over 350 students STEM camp opportunities on non-school days.  The next STEM camps for students throughout the region will be in the summer.

"Students are able to participate in hands-on STEM activities during non-school days, such as drones, to reinforce and link concepts they learn in school,” said Dana Silicki, IALR Coordinator of Advanced Learning.

Photo 1:  IALR Advanced Learning Coordinator Dana Silicki holds a small drone as Eli Farmer and Ian Yeatts (left to right) synchronize the controller to the drone.


Photo 2:  IALR Senior Scientist Scott Lowman demonstrates to a group of campers how an automated SMART table operates and provides important data to scientists for agricultural research purposes.

Regional educators and industry leaders were honored by their peers as nominees and/or award recipients of the 2017 SOVA STEM-H Education & Industry Achievement awards.  The awards were presented at the 5th Annual Southern Virginia STEM-H Summit on March 2 at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.  The awards formally recognize industry members and educators who are leading the charge in creating and partnering on innovative educational opportunities. 

  • Community Champion for STEM-H Education – Virginia Museum of Natural History
    • VMNH is a dedicated supporter of STEM-H programming in Southern Virginia and managed outreach to promote science education throughout the region.  In 2016, VMNH delivered STEM education to more than 15,000 people via museum visits, outreach programs to school districts, science talks, and education booths at career fairs. 
  •  STEM-H Educator of the Year – Karen Adams
    • Karen Adams is a 17-year veteran teacher currently co-teaching sixth and eighth grade math at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School.  Adams also organizes and promotes many STEM learning opportunities for students, teachers, parents, and the community during non-school hours including Ten-80, Summer Engineering Experience for Kids Camp, Pre-College Initiative Program at Virginia Tech, and the Imagination STEM Camp at Virginia Tech. 
  • Innovative STEM-H Program of the Year – Biomedical Competition, National Society of Black Engineers
    • The biomedical competition was created to educate the community on diseases that plague our community.  Students worked in teams to research a disease or medical condition and develop a presentation to be judged by local physicians. 
  • Elite STEM-H Education & Industry Partnership Award – Dan River Basin Association, US Army Corps of Engineers-Philpott Lake, and Martinsville City Schools
    • The Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) has partnered with Martinsville City Public Schools for more than a decade on the Trout in the Classroom program reaching thousands of students since 2005.  In 2012, a new education program formed between DRBA and the Army Corps of Engineers at Philpott Lake, Streamside Trees in the Classroom, an environmental education program for elementary students to learn about water quality and the importance of streamside vegetation. 

“This year’s nominees and award recipients represent the creativity and STEM-H leadership in our region.  Their commitment to STEM-H in the region ensures we have a vibrant workforce equipped with the skills needed to participate in an innovative economy,” said Jessie Vernon, IALR Advanced Learning Coordinator.

The STEM-H Summit is sponsored by the Southern Virginia Higher Education Coalition: the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research, New College Institute, and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.  The Summit brings together regional stakeholders, business & community leaders, teachers, & students, in STEM-H education & workforce development.

PHOTO: (left to right) Helen Howell, Innovative STEM-H Program of the Year; Karen Adams, STEM-H Educator of the Year; Sydney Brown representing VMNH for the Community Champion for STEM-H Education; Dr. Dietra Trent, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia; Krista Hodges representing DRBA, Ernie Shepherd representing the US Army Corps of Engineers-Philpott Lake, and Todd Cassell, representing Martinsville City Public Schools as the recipients of the Elite STEM-H Education & Industry Partnership Award.



Link for additional STEM-H Summit photos

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research will host six summer interns to provide meaningful on-the-job training and real-world leadership development experiences in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  The Institute’s Foundation provides funding for the paid internship experiences.

To be considered for the 2017 STEM Internship Program, candidates must be: a high school graduate with plans to attend college in the fall of 2017; an undergraduate or graduate level college student; or a recent college graduate, within the last 12 months.

IALR is offering five potential projects:

1.  Robotic SMART Table and AgBot Drone Image Analysis of Plant Growth and Health
(2 intern placements) (8 weeks)
Mentor: Dr. Scott Lowman, Ph.D.

2. English Cucumber Grafting and Evaluation
(8 weeks)
Mentor: Dr. Kedong Da, Ph.D. 

3. Characterization of Bacterial Endophytes
(8 weeks)
Mentor:  Dr. Chuansheng Mei, Ph.D.

4. Research and Data Analysis for the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance (SVRA)
(8 weeks)
Mentor:  Linda Hutson Green, Executive Director, SVRA

5. Educational Opportunity in Operational-level Governmental, Commercial and Non-profit Accounting
(4 weeks)
Mentor:  Patricia Chatt, Director of Finance and Administration

Eight-week interns will receive a stipend of $2,600, paid in two equal installments after four weeks of demonstrated success. The four-week intern will receive $1,300 at the end of the internship period. The anticipated weekly time commitment is 28 hours. The Institute mentor will set the work schedule during intern orientation. 

Applications are due by March 20 at 4:00 p.m.  The internship application and all details are online by clicking here.






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