UNT hosted the interdisciplinary STEM (I-STEM) camp for local area high school students this summer to engage them in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities covering a wide range of topics from materials to online gaming.  About 33 high schoolers from across 14 DFW-area high schools attended the camp, which was made possible through the support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and UNT’s PACCAR Technology Institute. College of Engineering Dean Hanchen Huang provided opening remarks to help kick-off the camp.

The I-STEM camp was led and organized by Professor Anupama Kaul, principal investigator on the $750,000 ONR grant and Director of the PACCAR Technology Institute.  More than seven different faculty research labs at UNT helped host the students, including the Nanoscale Materials and Devices Lab, the Reconfigurable Computing Lab, the Corrosion and Surface Science Laboratory, the X-Lab: Processing and Characterization of Structural Metallic Materials, the Synthetic Organic Chemistry Lab, the Semiconductor Physics and Optics Lab and the Integrated Biomedical Circuits and Systems Lab. At least 35 graduate and undergraduate students, as well as postdoctoral scholars, helped to design and coordinate activities for the students.    

“This camp was a great way for us to engage with local-area high school students so they can increase their awareness of career and scholarship opportunities with the US Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Scholarship Program in the STEM fields,” said Senior Chief Rosie Baerwaldt, a Navy enlisted member and NROTC coordinator for North Texas and Oklahoma. Baerwaldt served as a guest speaker at the camp along with several other members of the Navy.

“The camp was a good way to get hands on exposure in different fields in just one week, which made it unique from the other camps I have attended. We don’t typically get this type of a chance in a regular class room setting,” said Mitchell Clark, a junior at Plano East Senior High School. 

Misook Min, a chemist-by-training and a postdoctoral scholar in Kaul’s group, served as a panelist for the camp.

“I really enjoyed interacting with these students from diverse backgrounds. In the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Panel Discussion, I was able to reflect back to see what was important in my own STEM trajectory, which I shared with these high school students during the panel discussion,” said Min. “It’s really important that we increase the number of female STEM graduates, and camps like this are a good way to help dispel some misconceptions about STEM.” 

Jose Martinez, an undergraduate student in Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Ifana Mahbub’s group also served on the undergraduate STEM panel discussion.

“The undergraduate panel made me realize that I was in the same boat as these campers not too long ago,” said Martinez. “I wanted to let them know that choosing a STEM career is a great choice for future job prospects in industry or for pursuing more advanced degrees.” 

Avra Bandyopadhyay, a PhD student in the Nanoscale Materials and Devices lab who also helped organize the camp, shared how the outreach effort helped add on to his own UNT experience.

“Helping organize this camp was a good experience for me to serve and give back to the community, and this has made my own educational experience at UNT all the richer,” he said.