Kentucky State University organized a three week long Summer Apprenticeship Program (SAP) from June 7 to 27, 2015 to introduce rising high school junior and senior students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields as well as agricultural, environmental and geo-spatial related disciplines. The program was designed to prepare them for college programs and careers in STEM fields through hands-on experiential learning, research and college preparatory projects.

29 students from 25 high schools participated in the program. Selection criteria were established based on GPA, recommendation letters, short targeted essays, and expressed student interests in STEM fields and in Kentucky State University.

Click on this link to download the proceedings from the 2015 Summer Apprenticeship Program

Curriculum Review and Development: Development of a diverse curriculum schedule incorporated aspects of college preparation readiness, exposure to STEM career opportunities and guided experience in STEM, agriculture, environment, and geospatial hands-on research.  While much of the content was developed and delivered by the KSU faculty and staff, the SAP curriculum was further enhanced with expert guest lectures from government and business sectors and site visits to STEM workplace locations and environmental education facilities.

On integration of new innovative teaching/ learning modules into the curriculum:-  The first week of the 2015 SAP program was dedicated to giving an overview of STEM programming offered at KSU and to educating the students on many important college survival skills.  The KSU ACE staff produced a series of lectures and activities that served to educate the participants on issues, such as, securing scholarships to pay tuition, developing positive study habits, intellectual property, use of information technology, setting realistic academic goals, and active time management.  The apprentices also were given opportunities to explore the KSU campus facilities and to participate in team building exercises designed to build cohesion and trust among the group members in the early stages of the SAP.  The week culminated with an all-day hands-on introduction to geo-spatial technology and possible career paths in this general field, delivered by local and regional community partners involved with the industry.

Participants attended seminars and workshops developed and hosted by the KSU Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) designed to give students needed communication skills and to reinforce the importance of essential college survival skills.  The following workshops were incorporated into the SAP curriculum:

Student engaged in a multitude of activities

Student engaged in a
multitude of activities

  • Surviving College: Transitioning to the Next Level
  • Listening Skills, Note taking, and memory Workshop
  • Intellectual Property and Research Ethics
  • Study Skills and SQ3R
  • Goal Setting and Time Management Workshop
  • Essay Building, Research Writing, Grammar Helps Workshop
  • Microsoft Office Applications
  • Learning Styles Workshop
  • Critical Thinking Seminar
  • Scientific Report Writing and Presentation Workshop

As part of the experience, students undertook intensive research lasting two weeks that culminated with oral presentations, research mentors, student families, and KSU leadership in attendance.

The apprentices were assigned to specific KSU faculty research projects.  Apprentice project assignments were based primarily on pre-existing interests of STEM topic areas as reported during SAP pre-registration.  Every attempt was made to place the student with the project most closely aligned with pre-reported interests, however, accommodations were made to allow students to be reassigned to other projects as needed.  During this time, the apprentices spent as much as seven (7) hours per day with the research mentor and actively participated in the research by operating lab equipment, performing scientific analysis of data, and acclimating to the demands of full time scientific inquiry at the university level.  This time was also augmented with additional site visits to STEM workplaces and educational facilities where the apprentices were exposed to professional scientific research settings to reinforce the importance of research to the economy at large and to society in general.

Oral presentations were delivered during the closing ceremony of the SAP in front of all students and parents, KSU leadership, research mentors, and participating community partners.  Final paper submissions are being compiled into a proceedings document and will be made available on the SAP website in order to showcase the achievements of our graduating apprentices.

Graduating apprentices and their mentors

Graduating apprentices and
their mentors

Research mentor groups covered a diverse set of STEM topic areas, including computer science (top left), programmatic problem solving (top right), geographic information sciences (bottom left), and computer graphic visualization (bottom right).

Participants received hands-on introductions to use of various types of scientific investigative equipment, including handheld global positioning systems (GPS), web-based cartography and mapping software, environmental monitoring network stations, water and air quality instrumentation, and various other computer-driven mobile applications.


On providing experiential research opportunities:

At the heart of encouraging more active participation in STEM topic areas by all students is giving them an opportunity to engage in demanding high level research which positively reinforces the idea that they are capable of doing so. Twenty-nine (29) SAP participants enrolled in the program, recruited primarily from rural and underserved communities with higher proportions of minority students.  Twenty-six (26) participants graduated from the program by completing the required course work and submitting the required oral research presentation and research paper.

In addition to the experiential research, the students in many hands-on activities designed to introduce the user to the operation of scientific research instruments, including hand held GPS units, specialized laboratory equipment, and many computer-driven technologies and web-based applications.  Students were also educated on how and where to obtain many of these resources for little or no cost for use in continued scientific inquiry. These training sessions were augmented with seminars meant to instruct the students on how to properly document and report findings generated using this equipment.  The skills developed during these activities were instrumental in helping the students complete the required research submissions.

Hands-on laboratory experience

Hands-on laboratory

Hands-on use of GPS in geo-spatial study

Hands-on use of GPS
in geo-spatial study