Increasing STEM literacy in Alcona County

STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics) literacy is getting a boost in Alcona County.

Leap into STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics) with an evening engaged in engineering this Feb. 3, 2016, from 5-7 p.m. Join Michigan State University Extension, 4-H and Alcona Elementary School for a Family Engineering Night in Lincoln, Michigan. Learn about some of the diverse engineering fields, explore hands-on the engineering process and share the excitement of discovering how our world works.

Alcona County 4-H and MSU Extension applied for and received a STEM grant from the Michigan STEM partnership for STEM Enrichment in Alcona County. The grant funds are targeted to increase awareness and exposure to STEM in area youth. Working with Alcona Elementary school, grant funds have been used to support the new Alcona 4-H STEM club by purchasing over $6,000 in VEX Robotics and KNEX construction kits, which are on loan to the STEM classroom and available to 4-H clubs and the school to enhance STEM learning.

Additional plans for the grant funds include the purchase of underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) kits to be used to help start future underwater ROV clubs in Alcona County. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in partnership with MSU Extension will provide training in underwater ROV building and piloting. Furthermore, they will assist teams as needed to use the ROVs for stewardship projects and in participation in the Great Lakes Regional MATE Underwater ROV competition held each spring in Alpena, Michigan.

Currently, Alcona County has one STEM 4-H club, the “Student Stewards,” who have used underwater ROVS to help monitor fish habitat structures in Hubbard Lake. The Stewards have also had the opportunity to work with biologists in their search for potential habitat for the threatened Hine’s emerald dragonfly, and identify potential vernal pools – collecting data for a statewide study. Alcona County is rich with potential STEM stewardship opportunities! If families or community members are interested in learning about underwater ROVs and starting a ROV or STEM club, contact 4-H program coordinator Les Thomas at

4-H has a long standing reputation of engaging youth in experiential, inquiry, hands-on activities. These activities enhance formal (public school) science education through their alignment to the eight Scientific and Engineering Practices. MSU Extension is excited to work with Alcona schools to provide professional development for area educators to enhance their STEM knowledge and learn additional ways to engage youth in experiential, hands-on, inquiry, STEM activities.

While enriching STEM in the schools, this grant also brings new opportunities to area youth and their families. Area youth new to 4-H will be able to apply for a partial scholarship to 4-H Camp “Go Green!,” a multicounty STEM overnight camp held annually in June. This year, youth will engage in recycling, reusing and renewable energy activities. New 4-H STEM members will also have an opportunity to apply for a partial scholarship to the multiday day camp at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary exploring STEM and shipwrecks. Information about both these opportunities will be sent out to eligible 4-H members during spring 2016.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension’s Science and Technology website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension county office.

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