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JSU Held STEM Camp this past week

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JACKSON, Miss.) – Jackson State University (JSU), Mississippi’s only urban research institution, will joined forces with Rice University, one of the nation’s foremost research institutions, to encourage students from underrepresented communities to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The initiative is hosted by Jackson State’s Office of the President and the university’s TRIO programs led by Mitchell Shears, Ed.D., associate vice president of Student Success and executive director of Title III.           

“We hope to inspire future generations to follow their STEM passions,” said JSU President Marcus Thompson, Ph.D. “I am proud of our dedicated staff for providing the highest quality education not only for our college students but for the youth in our community through this camp. The skills that will be developed over the summer will leave a lasting impression on these campers, and I hope it will inspire them to continue their STEM education so they can make a lasting impression on the world someday.”

JSU’s dynamic 2024 summer camp program integrated with Rice’s Tapia STEM Camp curriculum and also include opportunities for ExxonMobil employees to engage with students throughout the week, helping 60 high-school students learn about carbon dioxide (CO2) and the importance of its effective management in a lower-carbon future.

During the camp rising ninth- through twelfth-grade students are learned about the capture of CO2 and its transportation to specially designated sites with the right geological properties for permanent, underground storage. They also experimented with hands-on STEM projects, such as building a model of an underground reservoir that has porous and impermeable rock layers using household items, such as Play-Doh™, pasta and beans, and using water and vegetable oil to demonstrate how carbon can be injected and stored in the reservoirs.

At the conclusion of the week-long camp, the hope is participants will emerge with a better understanding of CO2 — its origins, its impact, and the importance of implementing carbon capture and storage to help reduce climate change and its impact on the planet. The program will also help students learn and practice public speaking and collaboration skills as they work together to present their final projects.

The Tapia STEM Camps, named after Richard Tapia, Ph.D. of Rice University, aim to promote STEM excellence and equity among middle- and high-school students. Tapia, an acclaimed mathematician and educator, founded the camps to inspire students to pursue STEM subjects while fostering inclusivity and a passion for learning.

“Education is the cornerstone of individual opportunity and economic growth, with STEM skills being especially crucial,” said ExxonMobil Pipeline Company President Steve Yatauro. “ExxonMobil is proud to champion this initiative to engage and support the education of future energy and community leaders.”

Designed by a team led by Rice University’s Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity in Education Interim Executive Director, Professor Paul Hand, PhD., the Tapia STEM camp curriculum places a special focus on teaching effective communication and teamwork, two essential but often overlooked skills needed for a successful STEM career.  In addition to developing public speaking and collaboration skills, Tapia camp participants engage with diverse experts who talk about their experiences and work in the field.

“The Tapia STEM camp and its mission are more important than the research that I do because we have the right people helping, like ExxonMobil,” said Tapia. “It grew and grew and grew. First, it was just Houston, and then it was Texas. We went to Louisiana and now to Mississippi. We’re making a difference. We’re making the world a better place.”

Rice University’s Tapia STEM Camp team met with Jackson State University camp teachers earlier this year to provide professional development and share the tools and techniques for teaching the Tapia course curriculum and experiences in their classrooms at JSU.

“As educators, we want to help open students’ eyes to areas of study and future job opportunities that are important, in demand and rewarding,” said JSU Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development Almesha L. Campbell, Ph.D. “I am grateful to ExxonMobil and The Tapia Center for helping us teach these students about the incredible possibilities of pursuing STEM education and careers.”

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