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KNBA News - Students build, test drones in UAA science and engineering program

By Joaqlin Estus

Through the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, or ANSEP, middle-school students learn through hands-on activities that teach them science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In a two-week academy they learned how to build a computer and test structures in earthquake simulations.

Fifty-six students are wrapping up a 5-day session in which they assemble motors, batteries and controls to create an unmanned aerial vehicle, otherwise known as a drone. Then they test them.

Meanwhile, Joseph Chulik, of Scammon Bay, age 11, practices flying and landing a drone using a simulator.   

“The rudder is for turning and I’m gonna, I’m trying to land in the circle. Ah!”

Audry Alstrom is originally from Aluckanuck, at the mouth of the Yukon River. She attended ANSEP during high school, earned a degree and worked as a civil engineer before returning to ANSEP as a regional director for the Middle School Academy:

“It’s rewarding to see the students’ growth while they’re here, and their excitement of learning and school and y’know wanting to come back and maybe seeing themselves here and being a student as I was once,” said Alstrom.

Students stay in dorms and eat in the cafeteria to help them get used to life on a college campus. She said ANSEP also helps build leadership and achieve academic success:

“We found 77% of our middle school students that participate in Middle School Academy complete algebra one before entering high school,” said Alstrom. “Nationally that figure is only about 25 percent so that’s a really good number because it shows our ANSEP students are succeeding far above the national average.”

To qualify for the STEM Career Exploration program, students need to first attend a 2-week academy, maintain good grades, and be on track to complete Algebra One before high school. Alexander Jones, of Anchorage, age 14, said it’s worth it.

“Anybody ever gets the chance, y’know, look up the ANSEP program it’s a good way to do something for the summer,” said Jones. “Y’know, if you’re a kid out of school. Just ask your parents. They accept most people. So if you want to do some cool sciencey stuff and meet some people, it’s a good way to do that.”

Two thousand students, from middle –school to graduate school level, are participating in the University of Alaska's Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program.

This story was broadcast July 18, 2016

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