2013 STEM Summer Institute

Overview. The STEM Summer Institute ran June 10-21, 2013, 9AM-4PM each Monday through Friday and was held at The Harpeth Hall School. 


Registrants. The STEM Summer Institute exclusively served girls who had just finished 8th through 11th grades in Davidson County.  Every public middle and high school in the Metropolitan Nashville Public School (MNPS) system was contacted about this program.  Applications were due March 7.  Twenty eight girls participated from the following schools: 

Bellevue Middle School
Cameron Middle School
Franklin High School
Franklin Road Academy
Glencliff High School
Harpeth Hall School
Hillsboro High School
Hunters Lane High School
KIPP Academy
LEAD Academy
McGavock High School
Overton High School
St Andrew - Sewanee
St Cecilia Academy
Whites Creek High School

Snacks and lunch were included for participants.  Harpeth Hall busses were run on three routes to pick up all participants who requested it.


Curriculum and Faculty.  The curriculum was based in both service learning and engineering design within a global context.  The Lwala Community Alliance "hired" the participants to work on two projects.  The rising 9th and 10th graders designed a fish pond to enable the Lwala residents raise fish to use as a commodity.  The rising 11th and 12th graders designed an oven for the women of Lwala to bake mendazi in large quantities to use as a commodity for trade.  Participants used the engineering design process to manage the designs along with appropriate scientific inquiry, statistical analyses, CAD drawings, and hands-on prototype building to accomplish this task.  We also did things to make this feel a bit more like a traditional camp - and not just academics – such as making ice cream, making shrink-dinks, going to the playground, etc.  We also included topics like college planning and building up the girls’ social capital.


Ultimately the girls were highly successful in their fish pond and oven designs.  Each group of girls created a scale-model using Google Sketchup before constructing their prototype.  The scale model was included along with their abbreviated version of the engineering design process on their scientific posters.  Each group created a thorough record of the engineering design work using the website InnovationPortal.org.  Each group also prepared an oral presentation and a video of their fish pond or oven in action.  These videos ran while the girls stood in front of the posters, giving their oral presentations, to judges, parents, and teachers from their home schools on the final engineering design competition day.  Among the judges were the leaders of the Lwala Community Alliance who had “hired” these girls.  They were very pleased with the final projects and took the winning design with them on their current trip to Kenya to evaluate its possible use in the schools.


In addition to Dr. Klein-Gardner, the faculty included 7Harpeth Hall teachers (Yelena Janumyan – middle school science, Maureen Hill – middle school mathematics, Jennifer Webster – upper school mathematics, Gary Schott – upper school science, Lisa Keen – upper school science, Becky Smith - middle school science, and Hannah Bond - upper school science) as well as four biomedical engineers from Vanderbilt University (graduate students John Martin, Samantha Sarrett, and Martina Miteva and professor Craig Duvall).  Over lunch and during some classes and the engineering design project judging, we included other STEM professionals.


When the girls were asked, “What is the most interesting thing you remember learning at the STEM Summer Institute?”

  • “The most interesting thing I could remember learning from this summer Institute, is that it is alright to fail but it is never okay to give up. I also learned what STEM was really about and what it could prepare you for in the real world.”
  • “I loved being challenged to only be able to use certain resources. It taught me to be truly grateful for everything that I am blessed to have or have quick access to.”
  • “The most interesting thing that I learned at the STEM Summer Institute was how much our pond would be benefiting the people of Lwala, no matter who's pond got to be placed in Lwala.”
  • "How to use Google sketchup.”
  • "Learning about Lwala community and culture. I also enjoyed building fire!"