POTSDAM — This week at Clarkson University, kids and teens experimented with the science of motion.
The university’s 15th annual IMPETUS Roller Coaster Camp was the culmination of a year of monthly programming centered on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. About 150 students in grades 7 to 12 participate in the academic year program, implemented in 11 school districts mostly in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, and through Clarkson’s Hudson Valley campus at the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries.
The program has grown steadily, though the spring 2020 programming and the 2020 roller coaster camp were facilitated online. This week’s in-person return of the summer camp drew about 50 of the total 150 academic year participants.
The goal of IMPETUS — Integrated Math and Physics for Entry to Undergraduate STEM — is “to get north country kids excited about STEM and support them going to college,” Kathleen R. Kavanagh said.
A professor of math and director of Clarkson’s Institute for STEM Education, Ms. Kavanagh organizes the IMPETUS program with a group of core math and physics faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and middle and high school teachers.
The week involves mini-lessons and exercises, a team effort to design a roller coaster and a day trip to Six Flags Great Escape, south of Lake George in Queensbury.
New this year was a biology component, with St. Lawrence University Associate Professor of Biology Alex M. Schreiber demonstrating how microgravity affects the body’s heart rate and blood pressure.
Darlene M. Bissonette, a high school earth science and physics teacher at Brasher Falls Central, has been teaching in the academic-year program and summer camp for all 15 years. The students keep her coming back, she said.
With the program’s state funding and Clarkson’s technology, Ms. Bissonette said she can lead lessons not part of her high school curriculum.
“This provides students with resources I can’t in school,” she said. “I discover new things, too.”
On Wednesday morning, middle school students rotated between four interactive stations. They focused on balloons and buoyancy; a tilt table and blood pressure; the Barany test and dizziness; and virtual reality. Campers visited Six Flags Great Escape on Thursday and will finish the week with their own presentations.
The program is free for eligible students and funded by the state Education Department’s Science and Technology Entry Program. STEP is designed to increase the number of historically disenfranchised students going to college to study math, science and health.