NOVA Hosts STEM Summer Academy for High School Students

NOVA Hosts STEM Summer Academy for High School Students

NOVA Hosts STEM Summer Academy for High School Students
Students doing pollen analysis using the scanning electron microscope.

NOVA hosted a sophisticated multicampus STEM academy for high school students in June. This ambitious project was generated by the work of the NOVA College-wide STEM Initiative (NCSI) team.

NCSI initiative was launched in fall 2014. With funding provided by the College and chaired by Dr. Ia Gomez, Manassas Campus associate dean of science and applied technologies, faculty members from STEM disciplines from each NOVA campus have been working closely to enhance STEM departments and programs across the College.

NOVA Hosts STEM Summer Academy for High School Students
Student doing fiber analysis.

During the past two years, the NCSI team has been dedicated to providing cutting edge technology, equipment standardization and curriculum enhancement across campuses. “Our goal is in order to provide the best educational opportunities for students at NOVA, expose them to state-of-the-art equipment and equip them with skills and knowledge to make them competitive in the STEM workforce placing NOVA at the forefront of STEM education,” said Gomez.

A week-long STEM summer academy has been hosted on four NOVA campuses funded by a Perkins Grant. The NCSI Summer academy featured a forensics mystery and high school students from multiple schools from the Northern Virginia region were tasked with solving a “mystery” on each participating campus. Nearly 40 NOVA faculty members participated in the activities across NOVA Annandale, Manassas, Alexandria and Woodbridge campuses, and departments involved included biology, chemistry, physics, geology, cybersecurity, administration of justice and NOVA Police.

NOVA Hosts STEM Summer Academy for High School Students
President Scott Ralls, Dr. Ia Gomez and faculty.

High school students were introduced to NOVA STEM programs and the cutting edge technology acquired for NOVA labs. The college-wide coordination of the project was headed by Gomez with great support from Kim Jacomo (SySTEMics Solutions), and each participating campus was led by an on-site coordinator: Dr. Vashti Bryant (Manassas), Dr. Mary Vander Maten (Annandale), Dr. Maggie Emblom-Callahan (Alexandria) and Patrick Dawes (Woodbridge).

In addition, two $500 scholarships were created for two of the academy participants. These scholarships will cover tuition for a NOVA science class with a lab in a future semester. Scholarships were generously donated by NOVA professors Reva Savkar and Bob Loser.

The NCSI Summer academy was an enormous success with participation of 75 students across campuses, who greatly enjoyed the weekly activities. Activities included analysis of bone samples, use of the Anatomage table for introduction of anatomy, DNA analysis of the evidence, use of scanning electron microscope, FT-IR fiber analysis, analysis of poison in drink, polygraph and interrogation of suspects, and other exciting lab activities. Students concluded their week with a presentation of their project and a ceremony with students receiving certificates and enjoying a reception with their family and friends. President Scott Ralls attended the event and congratulated the efforts dedicated to the success of this project.

NCSI would like to thank the Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation and the Perkins Foundation for their support on this project.

For more information contact Gomez at or 703.530.8255

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