How Alaska Is Building a Bridge to the Future

Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program is guiding students to STEM careers.

Certainly, a chief goal of the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program is to get computers into the hands and homes of middle and high school students across the state. But there's far more to ANSEP than that.

During this past summer, students Aksiin Storer of Anchorage and Evelyn Rochon of Unalakleet helped their groups build balsa wood bridges. The project — and others like it — let the ANSEP staff and counselors integrate several science, technology, engineering and math lessons into the tightly packed sessions.

For the two 11-year-old girls, the building and testing of the bridges was the culmination of a 12-day session. Storer, Rochon and their fellow participants used the computers they built during the first two days of their session to research and design the small truss bridges. Then they constructed the bridges using screwdrivers, glue guns and mini-saws. Students also conducted stress tests by placing a U-bolt and a piece of plywood on each bridge.

The students also used animation software to develop presentations about their overall experience.

"It just feels so good to have built a computer. It's something you can put in your room at home," says Storer, who was inspired to attend ANSEP by her mother and hopes to build an amusement park one day.

Adds Rochon, who was encouraged to attend the program by the guidance counselor at her elementary school: "It was fun and interesting, just a great experience." She also has a desire to build in the future: cabins in the Alaskan woods. "I like to be outdoors."

Oct 15 2012

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