STEM in Mississippi

Not only are there endless opportunities to engage in STEM at home, but there are a multitude of places in Mississippi where you can bring your young learner and help them discover STEM this summer. Whether you’re making a weekend trip to grandma’s house or just looking for a change of scenery, it’s time to load up the car and check out STEM opportunities statewide!

The Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson is a great place to get your student’s summer off to a STEM-tasticstart! At the Children’s Museum, you’ll be able to experience exhibits rooted in science that will spark your child’s imagination and engage their minds in STEM. Exhibits like World at Work incorporates science, technology, engineering and math in its showcase of careers and industries that keep Mississippi’s economy moving. Let your youngster break out their STEM skills and get to work at this exhibit testing out a future career in industries like agriculture, transportation, energy, manufacturing, construction, forestry and engineering.

Photo from Mississippi Children’s Museum website.

While in the area, you can also check out the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, located just down the street from the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Believe it or not, the science behind Ripley’s Believe It or Not!® will be on display at the Museum of Natural Science all summer-long. Not only will you get to explore Robert Ripley’s endless oddities, anomalies and findings that are beyond our wildest imaginations, but you’ll also get to discover how these unique scenarios are founded in science. The exhibit offers experiments, challenges, touchable specimens, real artifacts and computer interactives that will allow your young learner to understand some of the world’s most bizarre findings from a scientific point of view.

If you’re on the coast, you’ve got to check out FabLab in Jackson County.  They offer everything from 3D printing and laser engraving to robotics! In Gulfport, you’ll find endless opportunities for learning at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. At the Discovery Center, you can play under the Solar Sunflowersthat convert the sun’s energy into electricity, learn about the science that keeps your furry friends healthy at The Little Pet Vetor get hands-on experience with mass, motion, sight and sound at It’s A Matter of Science.

Photo: FabLab Facebook Page

Colleges and Universities across our state are also great places to help your young learner plug in this summer, get excited about STEM and get a glimpse of what college life is like! The University of Mississippi offers an exciting Ecology day-camp where your student can get up close and personal with Mississippi’s ecosystems and explore our world from the ground up with bug collection, water quality experiments and tree identification. Mississippi State University offers engineering day camps that explore engineering and STEM concepts with unique hands-on experiences. They also offer computer coding and cyber camps for elementary school girls statewide! Closer to home here in Laurel, the University of Southern Mississippi has a wide array of camps for kids! From DNA sequencing to inventions and yucky science experiments you’d never attempt in your clean kitchen, USM has plenty of opportunities to stimulate your STEM learner’s mind this summer!

In between trips or if you can’t get out of town, don’t forget about all of the ways to engage in STEM at home! Developments in science, technology, engineering and math are our future, and jobs in these fields are growing at a rapid rate. Take time to inspire your young learner today and unlock their boundless potential!


Aquabots Conquer the World

In case you haven’t heard, robotics are taking the world by storm and some local fourth grade students are leading the pack. Oak Grove Lower Elementary School robotics students from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, recently returned from the 2018 Vex IQ World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, the world’s largest competition hosting over 400 elementary teams from 30 countries. The AquaBots, an all-girls robotics team from Oak Grove, came back to Mississippi winners of the World STEM Award for their STEM project and presentation on Rosie the Riveter and robotics used on naval ships. This makes nine local, state and world awards for this dynamic group of ladies.

The AquaBots team is comprised of Madelyn Courtney, Mica Shemper and Elliot Walsh. When picking a name, they decided to find something in common between the four of them (other than their obvious love for robotics). Since they all love anything to do with water, the name “AquaBots” was decided. AquaMom Michelle Courtney serves as the coach, educator, team cheerleader and resident stylist for the team. She is also Madelyn’s mom. “I am the fashion designer and make sure their team wear is mer-mazing,” said Courtney. “I am also a global ambassador for girl power,” she added. “Since the girls recently received girl-powered sponsors from Texas and New York, I am sure to keep in contact with our sponsors and help the girls spread their positive message.”

About Their Idea
Winning world awards in robotics doesn’t just happen magically. It takes a lot of proper planning and hard work by many. There are a number of completion areas in VEX IQ robotics, from STEM Research to Engineering and Design, Autonomous (Programming Skills) and Teamwork (Drivers’ Skills). The AquaBots invested many hours into researching a STEM topic. From practicing three to four times a week to touring Ingalls Shipyard and interviewing inventors of robots, what might seem like a hobby now may soon turn into the makings of an excellent career. The girls even participated in 3D printing classes at USM, led by Dr. Anna Wan at the Eagle Maker Hub Lab.

About the Competition
The competition works in several ways. There are “skills” contests that requires teams to drive their robot and score as many points possible. They are also required to program a robot to run autonomously. There are also teamwork-related several matches in which teams are joined to score as many points as possible together. They are judged on their design process and are required to document how they built and changed the robot throughout the year.

It’s all fun and games until something breaks. “During a competition, Mica accidentally ran into her mom and the whole claw of the robot broke off just minutes before it started,” said Courtney. “The girls had to think on their feet and rebuild the robot quickly to make it functional, which allowed experience how important teamwork is under pressure,” she added. This example is one of many that shows why STEM helps cultivate some of the most important life and social skills for children.

“Another major challenge when it comes to competing at the world level is the expense,” said Courtney. “Thanks to business owners in the Oak Grove community, an anonymous donor and their corporate sponsor Solvay Polymers, the girls were able to make their dreams come true and bring home a WIN.” Click here to donate to STEM Community Outreach, a local non-profit organization to support STEM for children and groups like the AquaBots.  To help pay it forward, the AquaBots hope to eventually mentor a younger all-girls robotics team when they get into middle school.

What’s Next for the Aquabots
The AquaBots just finished the 2018 robotics season. Since it’s now technically off-season, the girls are currently in the process of entering a STEM conservation grant with SeaWorld. They have partnered with the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport to create dolphin enrichment toys out of recycled robotics parts. The girls are trying out different ways to attach a GoPro camera to their dolphin toy, which has proven to be quite challenging. They hope to use the camera to study and record dolphin behaviors and reactions to the enrichment toys. These enrichment toys will be presented to the marine institute this summer.

The AquaBots don’t get a summer break. They will have several busy months ahead with robotics, preparing for the upcoming season in October. “Even though they aren’t actively in competition-mode, the work is not over,” said Courtney. “They will use the summer to work on team building activities and STEM research.”  On July 5th, the AquaBots will participate in a beach clean-up. They will be creating a jewelry line from trash they collect on the beach and hope to sell some of their hand-made jewelry to raise money for marine conservation.

How YOU Can Support
The AquaBots are all about GIRL POWER. They hope to inspire other girls to pursue an interest in the STEM field, and they want to spread their message of girl power and marine conservation by inviting people to participate in their beach clean-up on July 5th.


STEM at Home: What You Can Do to Promote STEM Learning

Stay Engaged!

We know that an education-free summer means many students will come back to school in August, more than a month behind the academic level they were performing at in the spring. The good news is, STEM is exciting and it’s everywhere! There are so many opportunities right here at home to make sure your student doesn’t fall behind this summer. Not only can you join us for one of our STEM summer camps (check the end of this post for a coupon code), but you can also keep your child’s mind engaged all summer long with STEM at home.

As parents and grandparents, we don’t want our kids to fall behind, but it’s not always easy to peel them away from the TV or iPad and get them excited about learning. But STEM is cool and it doesn’t have to feel like school! Whether you realize it or not, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math isn’t just on your iPad, it’s all around. When your student isn’t at a STEM camp with us or playing sports with their friends, keep their minds working with STEM at HOME.

Help in the Kitchen

Have your young learner join you to help in the kitchen and cook up something exciting that will keep their minds churning. You can check out the Kitchen Pantry Scientist for ideas on everything from “Candy Crush” stained glass to making square bubbles!

Open an App

While you probably don’t want your child or grandchild binge-watching Netflix all summer, screen time isn’t all bad. It’s important to keep their minds engaged and technology involved. Don’t be afraid to open the app store and check out one of these STEM apps.

Make Something Cool

Make something cool with things you have lying around at home – think old paper towel rolls, cotton pads, paper clips, straws and shoes boxes. Encourage your student and their friends to join in a good old fashioned competition and see how they fare with the Egg Drop Experiment! Challenge them to craft a device that – with parental supervision – will allow an egg to survive a fall from a balcony or second floor window. Or you clean out your junk drawer and have your child Help Harry by building him a perch so he can see far and wide!

Explore Your Surroundings

Go beyond the iPad and explore your surroundings. Right here in Laurel we recently had “Touch a Truck” that give families an opportunity to get up close and see STEM firsthand. From construction trucks that help create the foundation for our engineers to build on, to emergency vehicles like ambulances equipped with medical supplies, and delivery vehicles that are decked out with all the technology needed to get your packages to your door on time, at events like this, you and your young learner will see that STEM truly is everywhere.

For those students who love to read, introduce them to Rosie Revere, Engineer, Iggy Peck, Architect and Ada Twist, Scientist. These awesome books by Andrea Beaty will inspire your young learner and teach them about opportunities in STEM.

Engaging in STEM at home doesn’t have to be expensive. All of these fun and exciting ideas are right at your fingertips and practically free. Not to mention, you can easily whip up the projects in a pinch if you get tasked with an unexpected, but always welcome, visit from the grandkids. Between science experiments with what is already in the pantry, free apps, making something cool out of materials you have lying around and exploring your own backyard, the possibilities are endless.

Receive 10% off ANY STEM Discoveries Summer Camp

As we get closer to summer, we want you to have the opportunity to save on a camp so your child will have the opportunity to maintain all the hard work they have invested this school year. Simply click here to claim your discount code.

Trade Screen Time for STEM Time This Summer: Register NOW for STEM Discoveries Camp

This summer, school is out and STEM is in! 

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – what if this summer, instead of being glued to the iPad, your child could get out from behind the screen and discover how to design their own video game? Or maybe, instead of asking Alexa to find the newest TV show, your kid could build a new friend for Alexa and design their own robot? Swap out your kid’s search for their next snack and have them join STEM summer camps on a quest to see the world from a whole new perspective with everything from rockets to air and ground drones, forensic science and computer programming.

Unlike regular summer camps, STEM Discoveries programs keep your student’s mind academically engaged all summer long. Studies have shown that after sailing through an education-free summer, many students come back to school in August or September more than a month behind the academic level they were performing at in the spring. Summer learning has been shown to positively impact test scores and on top of that, one summer of learning can help sustain your student’s academic pace for years to come. In today’s competitive society, it’s more important than ever to keep your student up to speed with their peers.

Beyond keeping their young minds engaged, STEM Discoveries Summer Camps promote creative thinking and problem solving while building confidence and self-esteem. What’s especially exciting for your young learner’s future… STEM professionals in the United States make on average $15,000 more than non-STEM workers.

STEM jobs are the future of our economy and growing at a rapid rate. More than 17 million jobs in the U.S. are in the STEM field. Since the 90s, job growth in STEM professions has outpaced overall job growth in the U.S. Over the past ten years, jobs in STEM have grown at a rate of nearly 25% while other fields are growing at a rate of just 4%. Not to mention, even more growth is expected in this field between now and 2024.

The rapid rate of growth in STEM jobs may seem too good to be true, but it makes sense. Whether you’re going to the grocery store, ordering dinner out or writing a check to a friend, we see these stats come to life every day in real life. What used to be a regular trip to Wal-Mart is now creating a list online and having it delivered to your car. We used to pick up the phone to order Chinese on the weekend, but these days, you can submit your order online. Checks have nearly gone the way of the Dodo Bird with the advent of PayPal and Venmo. And, if you do write a check, you don’t even have to go to the bank to deposit it anymore… there’s an app for that!

As we’ve all seen, the world has changed, and just about EVERYTHING is electronic these days. Signing your credit card receipt on an iPad might represent more of an inconvenience than an opportunity, but the world of technology is the new frontier for jobs and the economy in America. Robots can do a lot… but they can’t do everything. Apps must be designed and websites must be built. Making all of this technology come to life in the palms of our hand requires a STEM-educated person.

Sadly, “go outside and play” is almost an extinct phrase, and the days of kids being left to roam their neighborhoods until the street lights come on are becoming a thing of the past. Computers and technology are more exciting than a shallow creek and an old rope swing. But as parents and grandparents, we can embrace our kids’ desire for “screen-time” and turn it into a productive learning experience.

We hope you’ll branch out and experience the benefits of STEM this summer. We offer both half and full day camp options that will fit your family’s schedule. All materials, supplies, a camp t-shirt and a drawstring sport pack are included with your camper’s tuition. Take advantage of early bird registration by clicking here to sign up before April 15th.

Bringing the wonders of STEM to the youth of Laurel and Jones County!

We live in a community founded on the spirit of ingenuity, creativity and achievement.

From John Lindsey’s 8-wheeled wagon, which transformed the lumber industry in 1899; to the 1926 invention of “Masonite” created from lumber waste; we have long been home to some of the most innovative minds in the country.

And we still are today! Of the 25 top employers in Jones County, only 7 are not related to the STEM fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Our goal, then, is to see this trend continue and to give the youth of Laurel and Jones County the tools they need to make it happen.

“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” (National Science Foundation)

STEM Discoveries Founder and Director of Operations, Dr. Mary E. Moore, received her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from The University of Southern Mississippi in polymer science and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Tuskegee University.

She has held engineering roles within the aviation manufacturing industry, Department of Defense, and several academic institutions. She has received several patent awards from the Department of Defense in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

As a native of Laurel, she witnessed and observed first-hand the lack of exposure to STEM in minority communities and within underrepresented groups. It has been her long-time dream to work with the youth and adults in her hometown community to increase STEM literacy.

Dr. Mary believes that “when young people learn that they can experiment with and master STEM subjects, a new world opens up before them. Our goal is to not only help them to gain personal confidence in these subjects, but to build the critical and analytical skills they need to succeed throughout their lives.”

Through Summer STEM Camps (registration open now!), Preschool Science & Fiction Programs, Classroom Workshops, Enrichment Programs, and STEM Birthday Parties – STEM Discoveries is working to make that goal a reality for the youth of Laurel and Jones County.

In June 2017 they will open a new home for STEM education, enrichment and fun at 910 Sawmill Rd, Suite G2 inside of the Sawmill Square Mall.

Sign up now to receive updates or register for a Summer STEM Camp today!