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Elizabeth Blevins
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June 8, 2020

Despite COVID-19 shutdowns, Shawnee State University’s Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) summer enrichment program found a way to continue the annual six-week summer experience for high school students.

With social distancing the new normal, SSU planners announced UMBS’s typically residential program would be virtual. The challenge was figuring out how to provide students the tools to fully immerse themselves in the learning experience online from the comfort of home.

Boxes of supplies for the program

“I have an amazing team who helped me design a virtual program that will pique their interests in math and science,” said UMBS Program Director Gabe Brown. “Participants will get to use modern technologies that not every high school student in the nation would get to use if it wasn’t for the UBMS program.”

The virtual experience Brown’s team designed includes intensive math and science courses such as Forensic Science, Introduction to Global Warming, Advanced Mathematics, and Statistics & Personal Finance, to name a few.

The program also has enrichment courses that teach students how to build and use modern technology. Students will learn how to set up, program, design and print from a 3D printer; how to assemble and use a drone; and how to build a HAM radio from scratch, while also becoming a licensed HAM radio operator.

Students will not live on SSU’s campus or take the usual field trips they normally would, so UBMS reallocated grant money from the U.S. Department of Education to supply students with tools and technology to participate from home.

Students pick up supplies

All 43 students participating received their very own drone kit, 3D printer, telescope, web cam, hot spot device, headphones, office supplies, graphing calculator, backpack, copier/scanner and art materials. The program is only available to low-income students who are the first generation in their family preparing to attend college.

Making sure participants have everything they need was paramount, so the team even loaned students in need laptop computers, the only device they must return. Students get to keep everything else after UBMS concludes.

The program provided 14 recent high school graduates in the program their own special gift of a Rocketbook® an erasable smarty notebook, a UMBS scholar graduation stole, and personal letters written by the UBMS team providing encouragement for the student’s future ventures.

In a typical week, students will meet online and learn their coursework through teleconference software on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, students will take virtual tours of colleges and engage in career exploration through the use of a video series provided by the company Roadtrip Nation. On Fridays, students participate in community service by doing work around their house or by helping neighbors.

“I am very passionate about what I do and so is my team,” Brown said. “I know the students will have an incredible summer program, despite the circumstances.”

Despite the radical change to the program, enrollment remained precisely the same as last year’s on-campus experience.

The UBMS is a joint project between Shawnee State and the U.S. Department of Education to build high school students’ math and science skills. The program’s goal is to prepare them for the modern world by teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) while encouraging students to consider furthering their education in math/science fields after high school.