DeSoto Students Participate in Rice Univ. Summer STEM Challenge

DEC local policy

DeSoto ISD Students Attend Virtual STEM Camp

DeSoto – Twenty-nine DeSoto ISD middle and high school students participated in a one-week virtual summer STEM experience offered by the Rice University TAPIA Center for Excellence and Equity in Education. The camp is designed to expose students in grades eight through twelve to foundational engineering concepts and STEM education through project-based learning activities. The selected students were all enrolled in the district’s Academics for Academic Enhancement and Excellence (A2E2) program.

Screenshot of DeSoto ISD STEMP camp

“We help all students that are interested in STEM create and develop their interests. We want students to see what science is in real life and to get excited enough to take classes in high school, go to college and major in a STEM field, said Dr. Hand, the TAPIA STEM program curriculum director. “Our interests are just in sparking that excitement.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the camp organizers shifted the camp to a virtual format and mailed project materials kits to participating students. Rice University undergraduates, graduates, and alumni conducted Zoom lessons with students throughout the camp week.

“The students were largely doing a STEM challenge. They were given a bunch of materials like copper, aluminum, some nuts and bolts and asked to create an engineering device that would cause ice to melt as fast as possible,” said Dr. Hand. “The students did a full engineering design cycle and solved their challenge. Then, they had an engineering lesson and then asked to solve the challenge again.”

Students Presented Engineering Devices

On the final day of the online stem camp, students created presentations on the refinements made between their first and second solutions based on the lessons and vocabulary learned in their sessions with STEM professionals and college students.

DHS student Elisha Allen named her design the Ice Device. Allen solved the heat sink STEM challenge initially by using her previous knowledge, but her initial design took 25 minutes to melt. She saw improvements after gaining knowledge through lessons about engineering principles like Newton’s Law of Cooling, heat transfer, and surface area, resulting in a 10-minute improvement in melting time for her final design.

Students closed their camp week with a virtual tour of a cancer research lab which demonstrated the study of cancer cells followed by a question-and-answer session with Rice University students and alumni about their college experience.

DeSoto ISD A2E2 CTE Strategist Kenneth Miller oversaw the camp experience for the district students and was pleased with the enrichment opportunity.

“I believe this will increase the students’ interest in STEM careers and they will pick a STEM course because of the fun they experienced at the virtual camp,” he said.

DeSoto ISD A2E2 Magnet program provides an in-school magnet program experience for students in which they learn through field-based learning excursions, project-based learning, industry site visits, and career and professional shadowing across industries in and around the metroplex. Learn more about the programs and experiences offered at DeSoto ISD at