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Middle Schoolers Go on STEAM Summer Adventures

Posted June 26, 2024, 12:00 AM. Updated June 29, 2024, 3:49 PM.

Program helps students develop skills in perseverance, self-regulation, problem-solving, and collaboration.

Godric Watson loves video games.

He’s spent countless hours navigating the make-believe worlds of Fortnite and Minecraft. This summer, he had the opportunity to peek behind the curtain to see how video games are actually made.

In fact, the incoming Hayes Middle School eighth-grader learned how to create a video game of his own through the APS middle school Summer STEAM program. And while the task was challenging at times. Godric said it was definitely worthwhile.

“I had fun,” he said, explaining that his game is about a man trying to get off the moon and back to Earth.

“You go through different levels trying to get the high score,” he said as he tweaked the coding to make the characters more attractive.

Godric was one of about 400 Albuquerque middle school students who spent part of their summer break immersed in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics as part of the free Albuquerque Public Schools program. It was funded with federal pandemic relief money and an APS Education Foundation grant.

While Godric chose to focus on video game design, other middle schoolers explored design thinking, robotics, 3D printing, film/music, digital bookmaking, and eTextiles/wearable technology.

“I’m grateful for this program,” said Keith Watson, Godric’s father. “It’s something good for them, something that gets them to use their brain and challenges them.”

He said another great thing about the program is that it introduces students to different fields and hopefully piques their interest and expands their minds.

“I hope to see it continue,” he added. “If we’re going to change our streets out there, this is what they need.”

Beyond learning about video game design, robotics, and other STEAM fields, students learned about watershed health. They visited one of four locations in the metro to learn about issues affecting the watershed and many of them designed prototypes to address the problems. Students showcased their creations at a share fair on Thursday.

Amy Chase, one of the organizers of the program, said the summer STEAM program and others like it help students build self-efficacy and teach them that they can affect positive change in their community through STEAM knowledge and skills.

“These programs support students in building lifelong, durable skills in perseverance, self-regulation, problem-solving, and collaboration,” she said. “The program also provides a sampler of the types of courses students could consider from career-connected pathways in high school, like computer science or engineering.”

Teachers working with students through the program also benefit.

“The program supports them in trying innovative strategies, which they can take back to use with their students during the school year, amplifying the effect on students,” Chase said.

She also thanked the community for stepping up to help.

“We work with a number of community partners to make this program function: City of Albuquerque Open Space, Sandia National Labs and Sandia National Labs Group 1400, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History/Sandia Mountain Natural History Center, Albuquerque Water Utility Authority, UNM Center for Water and the Environment, and UNM professor Stephanie Bunt all made significant contributions,” Chase said.

“Sandia National Lab Group 1400 had several volunteers who worked one-on-one with teachers, provided coding support to students, gave career talks, and attended the showcase to provide feedback to students,” she added. “City of Albuquerque Open Space, the Water Utility Authority, and SMNHC staff organized and facilitated the student field experiences.”