Dozens of local middle schoolers take part in STEM Academy

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Dozens of Hampton Roads middle schoolers got the chance to learn about science, technology, engineering and math at an annual STEM Academy.

It’s held at Norfolk State University and hosted by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Atlantic.

This is the seventh year of the academy. It originally started with only students from Portsmouth Public Schools. Organizers say now students from all over Hampton Roads can attend.

“These kids are going to be replacing us. You never know, one of these kids could be another Steve Jobs,” said Kevin Thorpe, who works for SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic and is the academy coordinator.

Thorpe says more than 50 students are attending the camp. They’ve built and launched water rockets, boats, bridges and robots. They’ve also had workshops on cyber security.

“It’s amazing how excited they are at seven in the morning when we get started,” Thorpe said.

About half of the participants were young women.

Thorpe says they’re always trying to get more woman involved in STEM.

“The percentage of women who pursue that as a career is very low,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women only account for about 26 percent of STEM occupations.

Fourteen-year-old Jada Jones, who attended the academy, says the workshops and speakers have inspired her to stay in STEM.

“STEM really encourages girls to go out there. It’s really inspiring,” she said.

It’s an inspiration to both campers and staff who say this shows a promising future for their field.

“It’s very exciting for us to know this is what’s coming up behind to replace us. In my mind, we’re in good hands,” Thorpe said.