UAMS Hosts STEAM Education Camp

By Nathan Tidwell

Katina White

Katina White of UAMS’ Pathways Academy explains activities to the students.

The camp is part of a summer program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville that began in 2015 under the direction of Tameka Bailey, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biological sciences. Participants in this camp spent a week on the Fayetteville campus following their visit to UAMS.

The program received a $1.25 million five-year grant in August 2022 from the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program to support STEAM education for underrepresented students.

“My inspiration for this program is my community,” said Bailey, a native of Gould, which is less than ten miles from Dumas. “My community gave so much to me, and I’ve always wanted to give back. My hope is that the students will continue to be role models within the community.”

“The grant has allowed us to expand the program beyond summer camp for students,” Bailey said. “We bring teachers from Dumas to the University of Arkansas for a teacher development workshop. Parents and teachers can attend financial literacy classes to learn how to save money for college. There’s also a $50 seed deposit to get started saving for college.”

Grant Chambers

UAMS medical student and Dumas native Grant Chambers welcomes the students.

Lawrence Cornett, Ph.D., and UAMS medical student and Dumas native, Grant Chambers, welcomed the students to UAMS.

“Here at UAMS, we do research that is designed to improve human health. We take care of patients, and one of the more important things we do is we train people who are going to be taking care of all of us in the future,” said Cornett, a distinguished professor in the College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Cell Biology and the director of the INBRE program.

“It’s good to see all of you. This is a great opportunity. You’ll get a chance to meet a lot of interesting people. There are a lot of pathways to success in life, and talking to a lot of people and learning from them is the best way to your own pathway,” said Chambers.

It would be a long day for the students. The group left Dumas early in the morning, and a visit to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff preceded their visit to UAMS. The students also had the opportunity to stop at Little Rock radio station 92.3 FM (Power 92 Jams) before heading to Fayetteville.

The activities lined up for them while at UAMS included a heart valve station, where students had to create a valve that allowed blood (represented by marbles in a box) to flow one way; a station where they made a simulated lung using plastic cups, straws and rubber; another station where they used stethoscopes to listen to a heart/lung manikin; and a cardiogram simulation that measured heartbeats.

Heart/lung station.

Students experimenting with a heart/lung mannequin.

Diane McKinstry, INBRE summer program manager, and Katina White, curriculum coordinator for UAMS’ Pathways Academy, set up the stations.

“The INBRE program asked me to assist and come up with activities,” said White, who was assisted by former Pathways Academy students Dionne Allen and Micheal Knox. “We’ve done these before, and it gives the students awareness and exposure. We’ll give them 12 to 15 minutes at each station.”

Cornett said these types of programs are truly valuable.

“The earlier you expose kids to career possibilities, the better chance you have of actually getting them to go in that direction,” Cornett said. “UAMS is doing a lot in this area, and I’m proud of the efforts that are being made.”

“I love that we got to learn everything here,” said sixth grader Olivia Platter. “I just love learning.”

Heart Valve Replacement

One the experiments was designing a heart valve replacement.

Jerry Ware, Ph.D., INBRE associate director and a professor in the College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, moderated a lunch panel discussion in which college students Lidia Belete (UA-Fayetteville), Jeremiah Canady (University of Central Arkansas), Aiiryel McCoy (University of Arkansas at Little Rock), and medical student Maxwell Jones (UAMS) shared their experiences and answered questions.

“When I was in the sixth grade all I knew was I really loved STEM, especially math,” Belete, a biochemistry major, said. “I went to a boarding school in Hot Springs for my junior and senior years of high school, and that’s where I got my interest in research.”

Canady, a chemistry major, shared the moment he knew what he wanted to study. “When I was in sixth grade we had a science fair. This guy did a bunch of chemistry things, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Lunch panel.

Maxwell Jones, Jeremiah Canady, Lidia Belete, and Aiiyrel McCoy share their experiences in STEM.

“My mom was working as a surgical technician and told me she could see me being a doctor,” said McCoy, a chemistry major. “That sparked my interest in medicine.”

Jones was also inspired by family. “My father always told me I could do anything I wanted. There’s no limitations on what you can do.”

The students enjoyed their visit to UAMS, which lasted a little more than two hours.

“The camp will pique their interest,” Bailey said. “If it’s something they hadn’t thought about before, they definitely will now because they get a chance to be hands-on with the experiments.”

Steven Edwards exemplified what this camp can do for students.

I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve had fun,” Edwards said.