CLD STEM executed successful summer camp

By Maj. Renee Sanjuan USMA Associate Dean for Policy and Communications - September 7, 2022
Students program their VEX robot to negotiate a path during the Center for Leadership and Diversityʼs Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics summer camp in June. Courtesy Photo

The Center for Leadership and Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CLD STEM) successfully executed its annual STEM summer camps for 113 Middle School students and 105 High School students in late June at West Point.

  This was the first in-person summer STEM camp at the U.S. Military Academy since 2019 as last year CLD STEM implemented a virtual version of the camp. CLD STEM received well over 1,500 applications and applications were reviewed by a cadre of faculty volunteers. 

Led by 14 cadets as part of the Advanced Individual Academic Development (AIAD) program and eight faculty advisors from the Departments of Mathematical Sciences, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), Civil and Mechanical Engineering (CME), and the Simulation Center, the campers stayed overnight at the USMA Preparatory School, ate in the Mess Hall and engaged in a host of STEM activities. 

Faculty volunteers included Dr. Mai Tran, Dr. Ryan Allaire, Dr. Freda Li, Dr. Shane Clark, Dr. Margaret Grogan, Capt. Nathan Jones, Diane Lindquist, Maj. Jeremy Reynolds, Dr. Gordon Cooke, Pratheek Manjunath and Col. Margaret Nowicki who carefully curated the STEM modules to use for the camps and trained the cadets on how to lead the campers through the exercises. 

Campers completed hands-on activities with VEX robotics programming, Foldscope microscopes, Circuit soldering, Game design and Lego Technics with gears and motors. 

“The dual purpose of the camp is to develop cadet leadership skills while performing STEM outreach,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Lee, the director of CLD STEM. “CLD STEM has executed these outreach events for years, and the recipe to success is two-fold: cadet mentors and competitions.” 

Lt. Col. Ashlie Christian, who orchestrated the day-to-day activities, said this of the cadets supporting the camp, “Cadets embody two traits that make them particularly effective in STEM outreach: they naturally bridge the generational gap as accessible young mentors, and they embody empathy, compassion and success in STEM disciplines and life skills.” 

Most of the cadets served as squad leaders and mentors for 9-to-10 students and Class of 2024 Cadet Andrew Medrano served as the cadet-in-charge of the camp alongside Class of 2024 Cadet Cayla Coleman, who served as the executive officer. 

The cadets truly valued the experience and reflected on their time with the campers. 

“For the few days we had these kids, we worked hard to teach them the value of STEM and especially the importance of treating every challenge as an opportunity,” Medrano said. 

“In addition to learning about the depth and creativity involved in STEM, we got the privilege to learn about building teams and forming lasting relationships,” said Class of 2024 Cadet Samuel Jung, who was voted best squad leader for the camp.

Brig. Gen. Shane Reeves, Dean of the Academic Board, also visited the camp to engage with campers. 

“These civic engagement initiatives are important to developing a love for learning in the next generation and bridging connections between our military and the communities we swear an oath to protect,” Reeves said. 

Parents also provided glowing reviews to include, “My son had an incredible time and is even more eager to focus his future studies around STEM-related topics.” 

Col. Tina Hartley, the department head for Math, was thrilled to be able to host in-person STEM camps again this summer, stating that “our faculty and cadet leader teams did an incredible job of building connections with and motivating this talented and diverse group of kids to pursue their interests in STEM. The energy and enthusiasm of the kids was inspiring to us all.” 

When campers were asked what skills they felt they developed during their time at West Point, they mentioned not only technical skills like learning how to solder, code and understand gear ratios, but also important life skills from the cadets like leadership and how to work well within a team. 

Nearly every camper mentioned that making new friends and team-building time with the cadets was a positive experience they took away from the camp. 

“All the hard work, fun times and materials that I learned at the camp have made my experience there unforgettable,” one camper said. 

Another camper said, “I wish I could do it over again.” 

Cadets spent the third week of their AIAD getting a tour of the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, and had the opportunity to shadow a researcher from the Adelphi Laboratory Center. 

They also visited Aberdeen Proving Ground and participated in discussions with Maj. Gen. Edmond Brown, the commanding general for U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM); Larry Muzzelo, the deputy to the commanding general, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command; Garrett Shoemaker, the director of the Software Engineering Center; and Dr. Patrick Baker, director of DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory. 

The mission of the CLD STEM is to increase the recruitment and retention of African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, women and other under-resourced populations in STEM. 

This mission is aligned with the national and Department of Defense STEM Strategic Plan to inspire and attract officers with a higher level of scientific and technological literacy who can effectively lead in an increasingly complex operational environment.

  Since its founding, the Center reached over 1,000 middle and high school students annually representing nearly every state through mobile workshops and STEM summer camps. Photos and video from the camps can be found at www.facebook.com/WestPointCLDSTEM/. 

Applications for next year’s camp will be made available around March of next year and can be found at https://www.westpoint.edu/centers-and-research/center-for-leadership-an…;