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Experienced students help nurture young minds

August 10, 2009

Youngsters in a science summer camp hosted by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
benefitted from the efforts of several ASU students with an enthusiasm for educational outreach.

Among them were Alice Ling, a senior studying mechanical engineering, and Erin Frisk, a doctoral student in ASU’s School of Sustainability. They worked with 48 Arizona middle school students who participated in the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp.

Ling guided the teens and pre-teens through science and engineering projects and helped them cope with living day and night for two weeks on a university campus.

“I love working with kids,” Ling says. “I love to see them gain confidence in themselves and develop team-building skills in just a couple of weeks.”

Frisk developed the camp curriculum, which provided the students a hands-on introduction to the diverse and growing field of sustainability.

She found it “amazing that they went from knowing little to nothing about the concept of sustainability to expressing real feelings of connection to it by the end of the camp.”

Frisk introduced students to sustainability subjects such as the urban heat island effect, photovoltaic panel design for generating solar power, and “ecological footprints,” among other things.

“For one final project, the kids had to do posters that showed how they would design a sustainable ‘green’ house,” she says. “They did great. They included all the elements of sustainability they had been learning about in the camp.”

Ling also worked this summer with high school students and other middle school students in the engineering schools’ Youth Engineering Summer Program (YES) and the Success in Engineering Education Summer Bridge Program for incoming university freshmen engineering students.

During the 2008-2009 academic year she was a peer mentor, helping freshmen adapt to university life and the challenges of engineering studies.

For a second summer, she also worked with the E2 Camp, which brings incoming engineering freshman to the forested high country of northern Arizona before the start of the fall semester for a three-day orientation experience.

Ling is a veteran of science and engineering camps. She went to her first when she was in the sixth grade, and attended several more during her middle school and high school years, including camps at ASU.

In the fall semester she will continue her outreach activities as a “Fulton ambassador,” which may include work with Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) – a program to mentor middle school and high school students in mathematics, engineering and science.

She also will work as an undergraduate teaching assistant, helping mentor students in lower level university engineering courses.

Frisk will continue outreach she’s done for the past year through ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. Frisk earned a fellowship as part of a National Science Foundation grant that supports a project to bring scientists to  K-12 schools in the greater Phoenix area.

“I like being involved in bridging the gap between science and the classroom,” she says.

Ling says her education outreach experiences are teaching her “how to stretch your patience, and how to deal with different types” of young students.

“Sometimes it takes ‘tough love,’ she says. “But it’s rewarding to see kids become motivated and nurture their intellect.”