The School Zone: News

Five high school students from Spring Branch ISD were among a group of Texas teens picked earlier this summer to attend the Tapia Say STEM Camp at Rice University.

Sponsored by ExxonMobil, the weeklong, residential camp is held for students in eighth- through 12th-grades. It features a tough curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known by the acronym of STEM.

SBISD students who attended the college camp included Harrison West; Rebecca Bass of Stratford High; Maya Woodmansee and Joy Ding, both of Memorial High; and Hamza Holmes of Westchester Academy for International Studies.

At the six-day, five-night, residential summer camp, student campers experimented with hands-on STEM projects, building a variety of well-known, but small-sized devices or machines by using household items like paper, cardboard, popsicle sticks and glue.

The Rice camp also allows students to enhance their communications skills by learning how to simplify difficult-to-understand STEM ideas and topics through graphic drawings or illustrations, and an end-of-camp oral presentation. Students also experience campus life for a brief period.

“Going to the Tapia Camp was my first time at a sleep-away camp, and I can definitely say I enjoyed it a lot,” said Maya Woodmansee. “There were many students there who were my age that had come from all over Texas, and even a few out of the country.”

Maya said that her student camp team was given two projects to complete and present in five days. In addition, the Rice campus provided an opportunity for her to enjoy a special college environment.

“We had two classes that we walked to each day, and I was able to explore and learn things about the Rice college campus, which was truly beautiful. I learned about interesting topics and the best ways to present them [to others], something I can forward to using in the future,” she also said.

“We were given an engineering challenge, and I was able to have fun competing against the many new friends I had made,” the Memorial High student said.

The Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity at Rice University was founded in 1995. It promotes and encourages greater participation of underrepresented minorities and women in the sciences and in engineering, empowering them to be future leaders.

Since its founding, the Tapia Center estimates that it has provided direct training and guidance to more than 6,000 students and 2,500 teachers. 

Founder Richard Tapia is well known for research in the computational and mathematical sciences, and he is considered a leader in education and outreach, according to publicity materials.

Memorial High School student intern Rachel Royster contributed to this report.

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