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Updated STEM Bridge Camp successfully launched

Summer bridge experiences are well known to help first-year college students. The College of Science STEM Accelerator has offered summer programming for new Patriots every summer since 2011. This yearwe integrated the 1-week Math Boot Camp with the 1-week STEM Camp, to create a new 2-week STEM Bridge Camp, from Monday July 24 to Friday August 4. This camp was hosted on the Fairfax Campus and involved faculty from 7 different departments in the college. 

STEM Bridge Camp 2023 - Greenhouse
Brittany Sutherland describes Mason's greenhouse to the STEM Bridge Camp 2023

What did the participants experience during camp? They   

  • Received specific, daily instruction and practice in mathematics. 
  • Experienced sample science classes from Mason faculty
  • Reviewed lab protocols for science classes 
  • Learned tips for success from senior undergraduates about majoring in STEM, taking classes, and preparing for exams
  • Were advised by experienced Mason faculty from the STEM Accelerator
  • Participated in trips to The Edge and Washington DC
  • Experienced a residential college lifestyle before the fall semester
  • Made new friends and became more familiar with campus

A theme of this year's camp was climate change; two presentations from AOES faculty, Luis Ortiz and Jim Kinter, framed the beginning and end of the two weeks. The STEM Challenge Research Activity was also related to climate research. The participants formed small groups and developed and tested a research question related to temperature and humidity, then used a research grade thermometer to collect data. The data was later visualized using ArcGIS with the help of Taylor Anderson, GGS. On the last day of camp, each team gave a presentation about their results. About this project, students wrote at the end: 

     "I learned that gathering data is harder than it seems."

     "I learned that without much background on a subject you can learn a lot from observation and data." 

     "I learned that hypotheses are often wrong and that's ok, because you still learned during the process."

STEM Bridge Camp 2023 Chemistry
Bridge camp students work on chemistry problems.

Led by Chris Durac and Georgia Williams, this year's camp also featured a new interactive session with Forensic Science, where students learned about fingerprints and DNA analysis. Other faculty involved were Pritha Roy and Xiaoyan Tan from Chemistry and Ben Dreyfus, Karen Sauer, and Jessica Rosenberg from Physics and Astronomy. From the Department of Biology, Val Olmo, Anne Scherer, Allison Tomson, Suzanne Gantar, and Brittany Sutherland worked together to lead two separate sessions. 

The mathematics portion of camp was organized by Rosemberg Toala-enriquez, who was assisted by multiple math GTAs and two Mason graduates, Sheeva Doshireh and Harnam Arneja, both former Noyce scholars who are now high school math teachers. Participants also had the opportunity to take the math placement test again on the last day; we are thrilled to report that every student earned a higher score and many placed into a higher level math class.  

Finally, this summer experience was greatly enhanced by the involvement of 8 amazing peer leaders (Merold Saffa, Garrett Wegh, Bianca Akins, Bernard Cruz Torrez, Rayne Concepcion, Jenna Triplett, Aiza Asam and Sydney Thu) and two support staff (Avin Seneviratne and Lacey Conlon).

This year's camp was in part funded by Strategic Investment Funds from the President's office, which Tina Bell, Maria Emelianenko, and Rebecca Jones applied for in December 2022. STEM Bridge Camp is just one of the activities administrated and led by the STEM Accelerator, a unique interdisciplinary collective of faculty committed to improve STEM education at Mason. Learn more about the STEM Accelerator