Upward Bound Summer Academy Concludes with Poetry, Music

Posted on - Tech Education, Youth

Last Wednesday, students in AIM’s Upward Bound Summer Academy concluded five weeks of intensive STEAM instruction with a poetry reading on the historic Trading Room Floor of the AIM Exchange Building. 

Under the guidance of Thomas Jefferson High School English instructor Evan Freemyer, students read their work to a rapt audience of fellow teens and AIM employees. Over 50 people attended the reading.

Freemyer began the reading by revealing the motivation for studying and writing poems: he wanted students to pay closer attention to their lives and to find something amazing in what they may have overlooked.

“Is it possible that, if you take a close enough look at something, there is wonder everywhere?” he asked. He then read a poem he had written about a bottle opener, which, in its extreme attention to detail and imaginative imagery, recalled William Carlos Williams’s groundbreaking 1923 poem, “The rose is obsolete…

One by one, about 15 students summoned their courage to approach the microphone and read their work. They delivered memorable and insightful lines such as: “My heart is a maze, dark and scary. But I have a map.”

According to an article in the Daily Herald, poetry helps students read better, builds awareness of phonemes—a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a given language—and cultivates vocabulary, fluency, expression, and writing skills. All these abilities are vital to developing an aptitude for reading and communicating, which will help students succeed in an increasingly competitive, technology-driven world.  

Keeping the Momentum Going
Summer Academy continued the intensive education and enrichment that AIM’s Upward Bound students receive throughout the academic year. Each week was divided into themes: space, sports, public service, environment & animals, and entertainment & the arts. To supplement their classwork, students visited planetariums, volunteered, attended a College World Series game, went to the zoo, developed theatre skits, wrote poetry, and more.

In keeping with the final week’s arts-related theme, students also learned how to use technology to create their own music. Senior Director of Educational Programs Jonathan Holland and Digital Content Producer Tom McCauley led a music production workshop in Garageband, a digital audio workstation app that comes free with Apple devices.

Each student composed their own song using Apple loops, the royalty-free samples built into the Garageband software. The goal was to create a soundscape for a favorite inspirational quote. As each student added and arranged different musical loops to accompany their chosen quote, they became like artisans layering readymade bricks to build an innovative, original structure. 

Holland got the idea for the Garageband workshop from a training he attended. It made sense to incorporate the technology into the Summer Academy’s activities. “It’s right up our alley: it’s tech, it’s art,” he said. “It’s really cool.”

Multiple students agreed.

“The Garageband workshop was so much fun,” said Ruthi, of Papillion La Vista Senior High School. “I like that we got to use the tech side and also be super creative at the same time.”

Students also expressed their gratitude for Summer Academy overall. Anthony, of Papillion La Vista South High School, said he appreciated the variety of activities that AIM incorporated in the curriculum. “No matter who you are, they had something you could get interested in,” he said.

Chelsea, also of Papillion La Vista South, singled out her instructors for praise.

“The teachers got people to think and enjoy what they were learning,” she said.

Beyond being a fun, positive, and educational experience for students, Summer Academy may prove to be a pivotal moment in the trajectories of their lives. 

For example, in a written statement of thanks to AIM, a student named Andrea declared, “I will come out of this camp with a clearer idea of where I want to go and how to get there.”

Ask an Astronaut Episode Four Has Landed

Posted on - Tech Education

In this episode, Astronaut Tom makes a distinction between Einstein’s general and special theories of relativity, talks about time travel, and demystifies everyone’s favorite irrational number, Pi. And over at the Brain Exchange, Ground Ctrl gives us a sweet technology demo on making your own drone out of legos.

Email your questions to therealastronauttom@nullgmail.com and he’ll address them in a future episode!

If you’re interested in a career in tech, check out www.careerlink.com/setyouraim for a comprehensive repository of information about starting or furthering your technology career.


Upward Bound Senior Spotlight: DeShauna Johnson

Posted on - Youth

DeShauna Johnson is interested in comedy. When asked if she’d ever participated in an improv show or a comedy open mic, the recent Thomas Jefferson High School graduate deadpanned, “I am the mic. And I improvise every day of my life.” 

That spirit of improvisation has helped Johnson continually reimagine and revise her vision for the future. Before entering AIM’s Upward Bound program, she didn’t know as much about the higher education landscape as she does now. She might have ended up attending whatever school offered her the best scholarships and financial-aid package. But with AIM’s help, she mastered the college application process: researching schools, applying for financial aid and scholarships, and writing scholarship essays. She also went on multiple college trips with AIM, including a campus visit to the University of Central Florida, which helped her get a sense of university life and solidify what she wants from an institution. 

After much soul-searching and option-weighing, Johnson recently accepted an offer from Atlanta’s Spelman College, one of the first historically black liberal arts colleges for women in the United States. 

Though her favorite subject is math, Johnson plans to major in biology and pursue a pre-med course of study.  

“I just like science, and I want to go to medical school,” she said.

AIM Upward Bound’s emphasis on science and technology helped her crystallize her interest in STEM, and even inspired her to develop coding skills that may come in handy in her future. (Upward Bound is a federal TRIO program that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in their precollege performance. AIM coordinates Upward Bound programs at five area high schools.) 

In addition to the focused academic instruction and college application assistance provided by the AIM Upward Bound program, Johnson especially appreciated the emotional support and nonjudgmental listening she received.

“They always had our back no matter what,” she said. “I relied on them for practically everything.” 

All of this crucial support helped her succeed through adversity and ultimately gain admittance to her dream school. 

 “Visiting a lot of colleges helped us figure out what we wanted. I didn’t know what historically black colleges were, and then I started researching them, and now I’m going to the number one!” 

On behalf of everyone at AIM, congratulations DeShauna Johnson on all your hard work and success. We wish you the best of luck!

The AIM Institute Brings Kid-Friendly Programmable Robots to the Agnes Robinson Waterloo Library to Teach Youth about Technology

Posted on - AIM Newsroom

To encourage interest in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—the AIM Institute’s Brain Exchange will showcase a kid-friendly, programmable robot as part of a fun, family get-together Friday, July 12, 7pm at the Agnes Robinson Waterloo Library, 23704 Cedar Drive. The event is free and open to the public.

The Dash robot, designed by Wonder Workshop, helps teach kids the basics of programming. Dash runs on the same kind of technology used to control famous droids like R2D2 of the Star Wars movie franchise.

The Dash robot can be programmed to respond to sounds and voices, dance, move around, sing and flash its own lights. Using an easy-to-understand touch-screen app, users add blocks of commands similar to Legos to stack together simple or complex programs.

The AIM Institute Brain Exchange will have over twenty Dash robots on hand for participants to try. Erin Lasiter, director of the AIM Institute Brain Exchange, says such hands-on tech activities are important for sparking early interest in technology.

“Technology touches absolutely everything that young people, especially, are going to face in the future,” Lasiter said.

The earlier a child can start learning about tech, the more likely they are to succeed in a world where technology increasingly mediates daily life, she added.