MACHIAS, Maine — A new program aims to facilitate opportunities in science and math for students ages 10 to 18 in Greater Machias.
STEM Guides Downeast, which officially launched Sept. 1 at the University of Maine at Machias, is designed to connect students with afterschool and summer camp opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) being offered around Greater Machias, said Susan Corbett, CEO of Axiom Technologies, whose nonprofit arm, Axiom Education and Training Center, is a partner in the process.
The Axiom center is joining the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to create the program, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
“We are the fourth of five [regional] STEM hubs” being developed in Maine, Corbett said. “We are the most rural.”
The program will target 600 to 800 students in AOS 96, which covers Greater Machias; SAD 37, which covers Greater Harrington; and the Moosabec School District, which covers the Jonesport and Beals area.
“We couldn’t take on the whole county so we chose three school districts,” Corbett said.
A news release for the STEM Guides Downeast compares the program to other afterschool activities.
“What if middle and high school students had opportunities to get involved in science during their free time the way they get involved in sports?” a press release issued this week for the launch of STEM Guides Downeast said. “What if there were clubs, events and contests that gave young people opportunities to grow their science skills, deepen their passions and become team players?”
Such opportunities exist around Machias but they aren’t formally connected. The STEM Guides Downeast program seeks to connect them and spread the word so that more students will take advantage of them, Corbett said.
“There’s this whole little hub of stuff that’s going on anyway,” she said. The program will formally connect them so everyone who is eligible to participate knows about them.
The program also will offer some coaching from actual STEM guides, to be hired by the Axiom Education and Training Center. One has been hired and the center is in the process of hiring a second, Corbett said. Program officials are still working out the details of exactly what each guide will do.
Corbett said she is getting calls from colleagues in other parts of the state offering to get involved.
“It’s not only what we have within but who else can we invite to share knowledge,” she said.
She hopes the program not only exposes students to STEM opportunities but piques their interest in math and science. For example, a student who has an experience that includes taking a computer apart might decide to pursue computer hardware as a career.
If some do pursue STEM careers, it will definitely benefit the region, she said.
U.S. Sen. Angus King also delivered remarks at the launching event Tuesday, applauding the new program.
“Science, technology, engineering, and math are all driving our future. But far too often, students, especially those in rural areas, have limited opportunities to build on their interest in those fields and develop the knowledge they want and need to get ahead,” King said. “That’s why it is so critical for us to close the digital learning gap for our rural students by connecting them to the information and resources they need.”