The 2023 Investigative Summer STEM Program (ISSP) boasted the largest attendance in program history, with 30 high schoolers participating in the overnight camp at Newman University.
ISSP camp is an immersive, weeklong experience that allows high schoolers to develop a better understanding of work in STEM-related fields through science, technology, engineering and math. For five days from June 12-16, students performed hands-on research with Newman faculty, experienced living on campus in the residence halls and even earned college credit.
Each year, students conduct research projects and participate in SMEAs — Science & Math Exploration Activities — during the week. SMEA topics included hydra regeneration, “pawfessors,” human DNA extraction and analysis, synthesis of nanoparticles, diffusion and osmosis, symmetry of a square and synthesis of an artificial flavor.
For senior Keisuke Takahashi of Wichita Collegiate School, the SMEAs were his favorite part — in particular, the hydra regeneration activity which involved looking closely at a dog’s bacteria using lab equipment.
“I have an interest in the medical field, so I thought ISSP would be a good opportunity for me to get exposed to STEM,” Takahashi said. “I would definitely recommend it. You get to experience what it’s like to be in a college class and experience college life a bit by staying in the dorms.”
The campers experienced a field trip to BG Products Automation, a manufacturer in Derby, Kansas, on Wednesday. A brand new element to ISSP was a hands-on engineering activity led by guest speaker Gary Brooking, chair of engineering technology at Wichita State University. The students also enjoyed an on-campus escape room and various off-campus social activities like bowling and a visit to The Arcade.
ISSP: The students’ perspective
“From every faculty member that I’ve talked so to, the students were very respectful and engaged in the STEM projects they worked on,” Huschka said.
Several students said they felt the same enthusiasm for the program.
Aubrey Dinh, a junior at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, was pleasantly surprised with the structure of ISSP.
“Before, I thought it was going to just be faculty presenting to us while we took notes,” Dinh said. “But I love how you actually get to do activities as they teach you new ideas at the same time. You learn a lot more about the path you might want to take.”
Dinh’s fellow Bishop Carroll classmate, Jemma Lubbe, said she loved the sense of independence at the Newman camp.
“It’s definitely a college course, but you get to interact with the research and in the labs, so it’s also camp-like and very fun,” Lubbe said. “I love it.”
ISSP participant Tristan Nguyen of Andover High School said his favorite part of the camp was building a modern-day trebuchet, a war machine from medieval times.
“I love woodworking and hanging out with the boys,” he said with a smile. “The camp made me realize I don’t really want to do biology, but also helped me in little ways to picture where I could see myself in the future.”
While ISSP can help students rule out future career paths, it can also help solidify what they feel called to do.
Before the camp, Bishop Carroll Catholic High School sophomore Tyler Young knew he was interested in a career in computer science. Now, he’s even more excited to enter the field.
“I definitely haven’t changed my mind about computer science,” Young said. “I’m in the web design crash course research project where we are essentially building a website from the group up, learning about servers and databases, so it’s really cool. Plus, you get to hang out with people and that’s pretty fun.”
A highly recommended STEM camp
Hushcka highly recommends ISSP to any high schooler considering a future career in STEM.
“Students get an opportunity to actually work in a college lab and use equipment they wouldn’t otherwise use,” he said. “You also get to talk with industry professionals that can give you an idea of what it’s actually like to work in a STEM field.”
Additionally, Alan Oberley, associate professor of chemistry, said ISSP “gives them an experience of what college life is going to be like in a safe environment.
“Plus,” he said, “They get to use scientific equipment they would never be able to use otherwise.”
For future students considering the camp, student Takahashi advises them to keep an open mind.
“You might like one specific field, but I feel like you should keep an open mind and try new things out,” he said. “You never know if you would have liked it or not (until you try it).”
Learn more about the Investigative Summer STEM Program at Newman
Our summer science camp is designed for 10th-12th graders (2023-24 school year) to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through interactive hands-on experiences.