Posted October 4, 2023

CST’s STEM-UP program inspires high school students to explore STEM careers

STEM-UP, an initiative within the College of Science and Technology, has earned a 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The program offers high school students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to explore science and technology careers. 

A CST student works with a high school student
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
Donovan Marte, a Temple University senior whose major is physics with teaching, works with STEM-UP high school student during a physics class this summer.

Engineers, doctors, data scientisits, astronauts. Thanks to Temple's STEM -UP program, local high school students are learning a little more about what a career in those fields require. The program recently earned  a 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

STEM-UP, a six-week, on-campus summer program, offers high school students the opportunity to explore science and technology careers. With units in mathematics, real-world science, applied STEM and science literacy, STEM-UP seeks to increase representation of people from underrepresented backgrounds in math, science, computer science and engineering.

Each year, INSIGHT Into Diversity recognizes colleges, universities and organizations that have established effective initiatives devoted to the work of improving diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM.

“The aim of STEM-UP is to engage high school students in science, computer science and technology in a way that makes it relevant to them and to their futures,” said Susan Jansen Varnum, senior associate dean for undergraduate affairs, science education and community engagement at CST and project’s principal investigator.”  STEM-UP is funded in part by the U.S. Navy through the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Philadelphia Division.

To create a hands-on science experience for high school students from North Philadelphia, neighborhoods across the city and the surrounding suburbs, STEM-UP brings together the talents of CST faculty and students, particularly those interested in teaching careers, as well as science majors from other area colleges.

“For our experiments, we use university-level equipment to teach high schoolers about, in my case, physics, but also chemistry, biology, math and data science,” said Donovan Marte, a senior majoring in physics with teaching. “It’s so much fun to teach a diverse group of kids about something I’m so passionate about. A lot of students are really interested in science, but they don’t know how to turn that interest into a career. We help them figure out what their next steps should be.”

Elena Borovitskaya, a professor of instruction whose STEM-UP course includes sections on dynamics, acoustics, geometric optics and electric circuits, described STEM-UP as a “living, breathing program.”

“I am changing my approach almost every year, readjusting for particular groups of students to meet their needs and interests,” said Borovitskaya, who has taught physics at Temple for 20 years and in the STEM-UP program since 2017. “Many of the students are getting their first experience in structured scientific work: making measurements, keeping written data, organizing journals of experiments and observation. Many of them dream about being engineers, doctors and nurses. All these professions require skills that the kids get in the STEM-UP program.”

STEM-UP’s curriculum has evolved to include a section on data science, which delves into data analysis, inferential and descriptive statistics, and computer programming. CST introduced a data science requirement for its students several years ago and then introduced data science as part of STEM-UP ahead of a growing trend to integrate data science in high school science classes nationwide.

“I really liked the data science section because I learned how to use programming in Python to analyze data,” said Roland Montgomery, a high school sophomore who attends Archbishop Carol High School in Radnor, Pennsylvania.

This past year, Montgomery competed in the George Washington Carver Science Fair, hosted annually by CST and the Temple University Office of Community Affairs and Engagement, and the Delaware Valley Science Fairs. He prepared by attending the STEM-UP weekend programs offered during the academic year and the 2022 summer program. His project was a healthier version of soda.

“This is my second summer in STEM-UP, and each time it gets me ready for my science courses during the school year, whether that’s chemistry, biology or whatever comes next.” 

- Greg Fornia