STAMFORD, Conn. -- Students at Cloonan Middle School in Stamford received an assist from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday in an effort to boost interest in the sciences, math and engineering.
One of the 50 sixth- and seventh-graders who gathered to learn more about robotics was Julia Walas.
"It's a great experience, and it teaches a lot about teamwork and working as a team to reach a larger goal, and computer programming has always fascinated me," said seventh-grader Walas, who added that math is her favorite subject.
The students are part of the College for Every Student (CFES) STEM program, which targets students in grades 6-12 at schools nationwide to boost their interest in science, technology, engineering and math. They worked in teams to construct a small robot and later competed with them. CFES is a nonprofit that seeks to encourage academic performance and aspirations for students who might not otherwise consider college or other post-secondary options.
Cadet Derrick Hall, who hails from Jersey City, N.J., and will graduate from the Military Academy in a few weeks, said he was interested in science, with chemistry captivating him above all.
"It's more analytical, more like a puzzle, kind of gathering different concepts and putting them together to see what you could do with them," he said.
The session was led by West Point assistant math professor Kendall Williams. The Dallas native received his doctorate in math from Howard University in 2010 and just finished his third year teaching at the Military Academy.
He was involved in the program last year at Cloonan and said the event helps to give students a tangible connection to math and the sciences.
"The students don't always have hands on out of the classroom activities or even hands-on activities period that they get to do in science, engineering, math for that matter," he said.
The second objective is to encourage students to think of careers in the STEM fields, Williams said. Many students don't think of those areas, he said, noting that only two of the students put their hands up when he asked how many were thinking of working in the STEM field.
The event may help turn those students minds toward considering those for careers, he said.
Cloonan assistant principal Laureen Mody said the event with West Point cadets last year was so successful that more students wanted to be a part of it this year.
"We actually had students come to us and say, 'Please, I want to be with this group,' " she said.
Joining Williams was West Point assistant math professor Dr. Candice Price of Sacramento.
The other six cadets at the event were: Rebecca Lee, of Honolulu; Samantha Verduzco, of St. Joseph, Mo.; Sandy Martinez, of Paterson, N.J.; Joseph Pritts, of Cygnet, Ohio; Blair Swanner, of Dallas; and Lewis Black, of Richmond, Va.; along with West Point math professors Dr. Candice Price and Dr. Kendall Williams.