to STEP In the News
Local students STEP
into summer school at Union
Posted July 13, 2012. Union College,
Mary O'Keefe teaches STEP students the magic of math
during a recent workshop.
(Photos by Jessica Doran '13)
On a recent weekday morning, Mary O’Keefe
stood before a lively group of seventh to 12th graders and
promised to give them magic powers.
Middle school student Imara James answers
a question during a math workshop as part of the STEP
On the blackboard behind her, O’Keefe had sketched
out five sets of numbers, each containing 16 numbers and labeled
A,B,C, D or E.
Handing out a series of compact white boards and magic markers,
O’Keefe, who teaches economics at Union, asked the students
to jot down the letter of each set with the number that corresponded
to the date of their birthday. One by one, O’Keefe surveyed
the room and correctly predicted each birth date by simply
looking at the letters students had scribbled.
“Does anyone know the secret?” O’Keefe
Imara James’s arm shot up. James, a seventh-grader
at Canajoharie Middle School, rose from her desk and calmly
explained how she cracked the code of the “birthday
binary game,” a numbers game embraced by math-heads
for decades. Others nodded as they slowly grasped the answer.
“Now you have the magic power,” O’Keefe
While some students lazily spend their summers hanging out,
the 32 students from historically underrepresented backgrounds
are getting an early taste of college life as part of the
Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) summer camp, now
in its 16th year at Union.
Over three weeks, students attend workshops on everything
from physics and engineering to math and computer science,
led primarily by Union faculty, including Samuel Amanuel (Physics);
Deidre Hill Butler (Sociology); Ashraf Ghaly and James Hedrick
(Engineering); Kristina Striegnitz and Nicholas Webb (Computer
Science); and Karl Zimmermann (Math).
This year's summer STEP class and their Union mentors.
Hailing from around the region, the students also meet with
representatives from Admissions and Financial Aid, Schaffer
Library and the Becker Career Center.
Working in small groups, the students are mentored by Union
undergraduates, who help them work on a science research project
that is presented at the end of the program.
“STEP is an important program because the students
get real lab experience and participate in hands-on workshops,
which really solidifies their interest in the STEM (science,
technology, engineering and math) fields,” said Angela
Tatem, director of the Kenney Community Center, sponsor of
the camp, which is funded by a grant from the New York State
Department of Education.
“They also learn a lot from their mentors and develop
friendships with the college students. The mentors are great
at sharing their experience and academic research with the
The payoff is also strong for the mentors.
“It feels good to know you are helping kids understand
the importance of academics,” said Danielle Franco ’15,
a neuroscience major from Darien, Conn.
Other mentors include Syed Hussain '14, Elite Williams '13,
Salman Syed '14, Daniel Hernandez '13, Teresa Crasto '14,
Thao Nguyen '13, Jully Araujo '13 and Habib Kamara '13.
O’Keefe, the leader of a number of local math circles,
recently began blogging about “Guerrilla Math Circles.”
Back in the classroom, she encouraged the students to share
what they learned about math with friends and family.
As she explained afterward, “the cool thing is that
the more you share of your own knowledge of math with others,
the more you retain for yourself, because explaining it to
others deepens your own understanding.
Source: Union College Website: Click
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