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Inspiring STEM Success

Lehigh helps Big Apple middle schoolers dream big

On Saturday October 25th, the Fordham Rams football squad will travel to Lehigh University to face the mighty Mountain Hawks. But they won't be the only Big Apple students taking in the beauty of Old South Mountain, as students from the city's Success Academy Charter Schools will be on hand to catch the game – and maybe catch a glimpse of their futures in science and engineering.

On Saturday, some 340 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students, along with around 70 parents and chaperones, will be welcomed on campus by representatives of the Office of Academic Outreach.

Henry Odi, vice provost of academic diversity for Lehigh, says that his team is focused on partnerships, and this visit is a prime example. "We feel it is critical to expose young students to what a college campus has to offer," he explains. "Over time, we've developed programs with various stakeholders across the Lehigh community specifically to make the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) more accessible and tangible to kids who otherwise may not get that chance."

Odi says that Lehigh's relationship with Success Academy has grown over the past few years due to the efforts of Lehigh alumnus Chuck Strauch ‘57, a longtime Lehigh supporter through its Engineering Advisory Council, as well as a Success Academy board member.

"In 2012, Chuck and his wife Nan organized a trip for Success Academy to bring 700 second-graders to campus," recalls Odi. "We're delighted to see a return trip from this school and hope to make it an even more regular part of their students' experience. This time around, I hope that these older students will be even more engaged, and start to really think about how their middle and high school educations can prepare them for the road ahead."

Robots and a ring vortex

Throughout the morning, the Success Academy group will tour Lehigh's campus and take part in demonstrations from professors in STEM fields. Associate professor of computer science and renowned robotics researcher John Spletzer will give a demonstration on his area of expertise. Dr. Gary DeLeo, a professor of physics, will give an updated version of the demonstration for the 2012 Success Academy visit, using sound, light, electricity and ring vortex to highlight exciting areas in science research. Each presentation will be adapted for this older group of kids, and will serve to shed some light on the landscape of collegiate academics.

After a morning of tours and demonstrations, the students will board a bus to Goodman Stadium to check out the homecoming weekend Patriot League matchup between the Hawks and the Rams – after all, there's more to college than classrooms and books.

But don't worry, the Office of Academic Outreach staff and Lehigh student tour guides will be handing out T-shirts to ensure that the Success Academy group is decked out in Lehigh brown and white – just in case there's any question which team they'll be cheering on.

-- Aislinn Strohecker '18 is a writer with the Dean's Office of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

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