STEM Camp Caters to Deaf Students



STEM = Science , Technology, Engineering, Math

STEM camp caters to deaf, hard of hearing students  (Georgia Center For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

Such a great idea!

Across the Atlanta metro area, science, technology, engineering and math camps for the elementary through high set have become a summer staple, with high schools, colleges and libraries offering a range of options to engage students in those fields. So it wasn’t surprising to find that Georgia State also hosted such a gathering in late June, but this week-long event broke new ground by being the university’s first to target a very specific audience: All of the students were either deaf or hard of hearing.

The idea for a STEM camp just for the hearing impaired grew out of Jessica Scott’s desire to link the university’s deaf education programs to support groups in the metro area. The assistant professor joined GSU last year and quickly connected to the Georgia Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, where she met Executive Director Jimmy Peterson.

“He told me about all the camps they do there, but he was really very interested in something a little more academic for older students,” said Scott. “He came up with the idea to focus on STEM, but I also saw a camp as a way for students to connect with others who are deaf or hard of hearing. Too often deaf kids are the only deaf people in their schools.”

A STEM camp fit both Peterson and Scott’s objectives, and with underwriting from the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, 13 students spent a week at the downtown campus exploring a range of STEM-related projects.

“They were kids from all over the state, and they stayed in the dorms,” said Scott. “They spent most of their days in classrooms working on projects, and in the evenings, we had all sorts of activities. We took a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium, and some of the Georgia State science clubs came and worked with the students on different topics. We even had someone from forensics teach about blood type testing, and we had deaf professionals, including a NASA engineer, speak about their jobs.”

Having deaf professionals tell their stories was key, said Peterson. “We also had our instructors from Atlanta area schools for the deaf and graduate students from Georgia State talk about their work and college experiences to let the students know there are a lot of opportunities, especially in tech, that pay well and can help them advance. It was the perfect opportunity for our campers to see they can reach their goals as well.”

While most of the campers used sign language, a crew of interpreters translated for the faculty and students who helped out and who attended the final presentations of the campers’ projects.

“Two of the 13 students didn’t know sign language at all,” said Peterson. “They did try to sign some, but mostly they were able to communicate by gestures or writing. A lot of the programs offered to deaf students typically are not willing to provide a sign language interpreter, but these students had full access and good interaction.”

The final projects covered a range of STEM topics, from circuit building to the best types of sutures to prevent infection. A solar-powered praying mantis was a hit.

“They got great feedback, and we’re already talking about doing it again next year, maybe on a larger scale and for a longer period,” said Scott. “And I’d definitely like to see more girls involved.”

(contributed by H.M. Cauley for the AJC)



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About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

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