PLATTSBURGH — Assemblyman Billy Jones logged into the AT&T & North Country STEM Network Tech Camp last week.
The two-week camp, free to 30 North Country students in grades 9 through 12, was hosted by Beekmantown Central School from Monday, July 29 to Friday, Aug. 9.
North Country STEM Network, Clarkson University, Coryer Staffing Inc. and AT&T were sponsors, with AT&T making a $24,000 contribution.
The event hoped to eliminate economic barriers and encourage local youth to enter careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Assemblyman Jones (D-Chateaugay) visited camp-goers on their final day to see what the students had been up to.
“From studying robotics to writing code, the camp allows young adults to learn more about the technologies that make everyday life possible,” Jones says in an AT&T press release.
“These critical problem-solving skills will ensure that the next generation of North Country leaders can succeed in an increasingly complex and interconnected society.”
The AT&T & North Country STEM Network Tech Camp became the first of its kind in the region.
While the two-week-long program was to spark student interest in STEM-related paths via project-based learning, it had another focus, too.
“Camp participants also developed collaboration and problem solving skills and enhanced communication and personal skills,” the release says.
“Emphasis was placed on how technology and computer science can be used for good to create solutions to address issues impacting youth in our region, such as cyberbullying and a good digital citizenship.”
And so, students split into groups, performed research and brainstormed ideas for a public service announcement on the topic of cyberbullying for either a radio, video or written platform.
That announcement became the Tech Camp’s final project.
In the program’s early days, students shared some cyberbullying statistics with The Press-Republican.
Northern Adirondack Central School District senior Delbert Hart had been planning a video PSA with his fellow group members.
“One in every four kids is cyberbullied at least once,” Hart had said. “Cyberbullies make kids twice as likely to harm themselves.”
And, while Peru Central Sophomore John Paul “JP” St. Marie III thought the statistic was a low-ball, he said his group revealed that 43 percent of students were victims of cyberbullying.
The projects were meant to target either an audience of fourth, fifth and sixth graders or an audience of seventh and eighth graders.
On the last day, Assemblyman Jones and other visitors, like AT&T Director of External Affairs Kevin Hanna, North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, Coryer Staffing Co-Founder and COO David Coryer, North Country STEM Network Director and Clarkson University Education Partnerships Director Mary Margaret Small, Ed.D. and Mary Pat McDonald from Senator Betty Little’s (R-Queensbury) office toured the program.
“Students and teachers demonstrated what students have learned during the experience and students demoed their final projects,” the AT&T release says.
AT&T New York President Amy Kramer said the area students were impressive.
“(I) am blown away by their final projects using technology to curb cyberbullying and promote online safety — critical issues that AT&T is dedicated to addressing,” Kramer says in the release.
“It was an honor to have Assemblyman Jones tour the program and provide motivational remarks to the remarkable local student participants.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor, it has been estimated that by 2020 there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of computer and coding careers.
AT&T’s involvement was part of AT&T Aspire, a $500 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, programming, employee volunteerism, and mentoring, the release says.
“We are thankful to AT&T for its investment in our youth and community,” Small said. “This camp is an investment in our future.”
And, Douglas added, it’s important students are made aware of the many local STEM opportunities “so they can prepare and take advantage.”
“The AT&T & North Country STEM Network Tech Camp is a very creative way to help do this and we wish the students well,” Douglas said, “hopefully staying in the area and being a part of our region’s exciting future.”
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