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AU News

STEAM Summer Immersion

August 9, 2022
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Camp participants saw STEAM in action and learned about innovative and well-paying careers in fields that are constantly seeking new talent.

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“Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere,” said Albert Einstein.

The first STEAM Summer Immersion at Anderson University was all about sparking in a new generation the desire to create and invent.

STEAM Summer Immersion was a collaboration between Anderson University’s Center for Innovation and Digital Learning, Center for Cybersecurity, and College of Arts and Sciences. Michelin also provided support in part for the STEAM camp. 

STEAM is an approach to learning that introduces students early to science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. The terminology may be somewhat new, but as early as the 15th Century, Leonardo DaVinci combined his love for the arts and sciences, as evidenced by his numerous inventions and iconic paintings.

Camp participants saw STEAM in action and learned about innovative and well-paying careers in fields that are constantly seeking new talent. Michelin provided scholarships for four of the campers to attend. 

“The main focus is to give students the opportunity to explore areas within science, technology, engineering, arts and math. We focused on seventh through twelfth grade because there are many students who do not know what field they want to go in or major they want in college,” said Dr. Katie Wolfe-Burleson, STEAM Summer Immersion director. “Hopefully STEAM camp allowed them to experience hands-on what some of these areas are.”

STEAM Summer Immersion participants learned firsthand about artificial intelligence (AI), coding and app development, cybersecurity, ethical hacking, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality, media development and robotics.

David Clardy, reliability engineer with Michelin’s US 10 plant in Anderson, demonstrated a wide range of technologies used to streamline maintenance and other daily operations the global tire manufacturer uses. Clardy showed the campers how imagery captured by a drone’s camera is used to spot issues with equipment, such as unusual heat or mechanical abnormalities. In many cases, a drone can be deployed much more effectively than sending a human up a hydraulic lift. Drones, according to Clardy, are a safe and cost-effective way to examine manufacturing equipment. 

In his 27 years of manufacturing maintenance experience, Clardy has seen digital technology radically change the manufacturing environment, which used to rely on mechanical systems and a lot of time-consuming manual procedures.

“Students being inspired to pursue engineering, computer science and other technology-driven degree programs ensures that the ever growing highly technical job market has qualified trained individuals to fill these positions,” Clardy said. “I enjoyed sharing with the STEAM students how we use tools such as infrared, ultrasonic, vibration, stroboscope and drones to inspect production equipment to catch changes in a machine’s condition so a repair can be planned and completed before a machine breakdown occurs. If the eyes of the students were opened to what computer coding and technology has to offer in their future decision on what degree program and career to pursue, then I would say the STEAM camp was a success.”

In the AU Makerspace, campers gained valuable experience in 3D printing, laser cutting and problem solving via virtual reality (VR) in areas such as healthcare or to simulate jobs found in manufacturing and other areas. Other breakout sessions were devoted to artificial intelligence (AI)  and hands-on learning of Linux, an open source computer operating system used widely in business and industry. 

Daryl and Christina-Gardner McCune of CommunityCode, an organization that provides students with information technology fundamentals, facilitated the AI breakout session, giving students hands-on experiences creating applications that use AI. For example, they could create a simple program that interpreted hand gestures on a computer camera. 

“Sometimes students are drawn by the opportunity or the new technology; other students are drawn because they have a family member they want to help. We heard different examples of how they wanted to design something to help a family member, and we can use technology to do that,” Daryl said. “Teachers would call that kind of learning interacting in a kinesthetic way or hands-on learning. They can learn and say ‘I can do this.’”

Christina said, “We’re seeing opportunities where, if you’re interested in healthcare, you’re looking at ways AI is being used. We talked about the movie Big Hero 6 and the robot who is actually a healthcare companion trying to figure out what is wrong with you to provide care. We’re not there yet, but in the future we will be and these students will be and these students are going to be the ones that create that technology.”

Dr. Paige Meeker of the College of Arts and Sciences facilitated a breakout session on coding for computer applications. She’s encouraged by the steps schools are taking to prepare students for STEAM related fields.

“South Carolina is one of the few states requiring computer classes to graduate. Ninety percent of high schools have a computer class, coding or keyboarding; there’s a huge need,” Dr. Meeker said. “If you expose girls and minority students when they’re young, they tend to go for fields in the computing area when they hit college.”

The two-day camp took place July 20 and 21 involved 27 campers. 

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