State grant funds STEM camps at Palo Alto College

June 18, 2019

Public Relations

Palo Alto College was awarded a $47,416 grant that will allow 120 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students to participate in one of six two-week Code the Future summer camps at the College.

Announced by Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday, May 1, the Texas Workforce Commission awarded grants to 16 Texas community colleges and universities as part of the Governor's Summer Merit Program. The program aims to inspire Texas students to pursue careers in the science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) fields.

The grant allows students to attend the Code the Future camps at Palo Alto College free of charge. These camps introduce students to computer science through hands-on activities that teach them how coding can be used to solve problems and be creative. In addition to basic coding skills, students will learn about topics like game design and self-driving cars.

"[The camps] help increase their understanding of computer science and what it has to offer to them as they look towards high school, college, and their careers," said Erron Gonzales, STEM Center coordinator at the College. "It's also important because a large number of the campers come from households where paying for a camp like this would be financially impossible or create a financial hardship."

The camps are assembled with the help of Youth Code Jam (YCJ), a local non-profit, which plays a major role in bringing these types of programs to the College. YCJ creates and teaches the curriculum in collaboration with the STEM Center.

"This will be our third summer that we have partnered with them on summer camps. They are huge supporters of PAC and all of our STEM events, activities, and programs." said Gonzalez.

The camps allow students to establish a base of knowledge that they will build off of for years to come. In a prepared statement about the Governor's Summer Merit Program, Gov. Abbott stated the need for Texas colleges and universities to ensure students are ready to fill high-demand industries and careers in a 21st century economy. Early exposure to this type of coursework allows them to find their niche in the variety of educational pathways housed under the STEM umbrella.

"The camps actually help with their confidence levels," said Gonzalez. "They become more confident with the coding language and technology, but we have also been told by parents that our STEM camps in general have helped their children become more confident in all their STEM classes at their middle or high schools. We notice these things as they go through camp. It's like watching them turn into a completely different kid."

To learn more about STEM programming initiatives at Palo Alto College, please contact the STEM Center at 210-486-3946.