CIAN Spurs STEM Interest Among Native American Students

Achievement date: 

A partnership with the Winslow Unified School District (WUSD) in Arizona led to a summer camp for Native American students focused on STEM topics. The camp—sponsored by the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC)—was held for middle and high school students from WUSD on the University of Arizona (UA) campus, where CIAN is based.


Hands-on activities at the camp and presentations by university faculty and administrators helped expose the WUSD students to the wonders and fun of science, particularly at the College of Optical Sciences at UA. Before the camp, only one-in-five students said they might consider studying optical sciences in college. After the camp, about half said they would consider optical sciences, and one-in-five selected the response, “Definitely. It’s awesome!”


Hands-on activities at the camp were designed to generate student interest , including “Turning a Pickle into Light,” “Make a Hologram,” and “Measure the Speed of Light with Fruit Rollups.” Speakers included Dean Koch, of the College of Optical Sciences, on the future of optics and opportunities in higher education, with other presentations by administrators on enrollment and retention support for Native Americans at the university.


Additionally, the partnership includes a reserved position for a STEM teacher from the Winslow schools to participate in the ROKET Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program at CIAN, and school-year visits from UA graduate students in outreach events at WUSD schools. The CIAN graduate students, for example, visited WUSD schools in December 2014 and met with more than 300 students.