MSU-Meridian, Phil Hardin Foundation partner on program for Boys and Girls Club

Contact:  Lisa SollieStudents putting together a bottle rocket

MERIDIAN, Miss.—Thirty sixth and seventh graders at the Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi now have increased knowledge in such topics as robot building and water filtration systems courtesy of Mississippi State University-Meridian and the Phil Hardin Foundation.

Through a local Phil Hardin Foundation grant, a program titled STEM Ex is offering high quality STEM experiences to club members through hands-on projects and experiments covering five main STEM concepts: energy and electricity, engineering design, food chemistry, aeronautics and science of sports.

Boys and Girls Club leaders selected program participants based on member interest, academic standing and teacher recommendations, and the two groups of 15 students met on weeknights this fall with Jarrod Fogarty, instructor of biology and statistics at MSU-Meridian and STEM Ex program facilitator. For the second phase of the grant, students have selected two STEM areas they would like to explore further. These enhanced STEM concepts will be introduced in January.

“Each project we did over the semester demonstrated at least one scientific principle,” Fogarty said. “I thought it was important to show them science can be fun and—with a short list of common items you can find around most homes—you can create some very cool experiments. It was really eye-opening to see how involved and engaged the students were,” he added. “It shows the interest students have for science even though they may not even know it, and with programs like this, we can develop and grow that interest.”

Ricky Hood, chief executive officer of Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi, said the organization has been excited about this program and appreciates MSU-Meridian and the Phil Hardin Foundation.

“By offering high-quality STEM experiences to our club members, we will maximize our already promising impact—especially when it comes to reaching groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields,” Hood said.

At a recent reception at the local club, students like Zyon Moffite, a seventh grader at Carver Middle School, shared what she’s learned through the program.

 “My favorite activity we did was the energy and electricity art bot,” Moffite said. “I liked how the head spun when it was moving. I thought STEM Ex was going to be kind of boring when I first started in the program, but after being introduced to it I found out it was a lot of fun.”

Jaden Smith, a seventh grader at Magnolia Middle School, liked doing the engineering design water filtration system made from plastic water bottles. 

“I thought it was pretty cool when you could see the dirty lake water go in and then see it come out clear,” he said.

According to Amanda Cook, assistant professor of criminology and sociology at MSU-Meridian and project specialist for STEM Ex, initial data from evaluations conducted with the students are encouraging.

“We are only a few months into this project but all students who took the post evaluation indicated they have enjoyed their STEM classes,” Cook said. “In addition, 75% of the students now report math or science as their favorite subject in school, and 55% report enjoying math and science more now than when they started the program. If a goal of this project is to increase interest in STEM subjects, these numbers suggest that we are having success.” 

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