Natalie Poulin, Cassidi Cowgill and Lauren Ewing, all students at LCM High School, work on origami to learn mathematics of folding during a STAIRSTEP workshop at Lamar University.

Lamar University’s Students Advancing through Involvement in Research Student Talent Expansion Program (STAIRSTEP) recently hosted a campus visit by 43 Little Cypress Mauriceville High School students, their computer science and engineering teachers Terry Morris and Cory Parson, and Vice Principal Kristine Brown.

The group engaged in one-hour hands-on workshops/demonstrations on April 15 led by STAIRSTEP undergraduates and faculty mentors in mathematics, computer science, biology and physics.

The math session included a talk by STAIRSTEP math juniors Tera Benoit of Vidor, Jason Miller of Washington State, and senior Jonathan Hodges of Beaumont, about their research in mathematics; a hands-on session in the mathematics of folding and applying it to making origami led by Benoit; and a hands-on session in graph theory led by Miller.

The computer science session included a hands-on session in game programming using a drag and drop tool called Snap to teach students basic computing concepts. STAIRSTEP computer science junior Tim Gonzales of Beaumont led the session, with junior Colin Smith of Bridge City demonstrating and senior Hannah Leleux of Bridge City and freshman Diego Fernandez of Port Neches helping the students.

The biology session included a presentation on career development opportunities and principles of molecular genetics led by undergraduate Datron Brown of Houston and faculty mentor Matt Hoch, associate professor of biology, followed by a virtual lab activity on Forensic Biology by led by undergraduates Claudia Marroquin and Linda K. Pham of Port Arthur.  Students were exposed to DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction amplification of marker genes, size separation of markers by capillary electrophoresis, and analysis of the marker profile to those of individuals in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System CODIS database.

The physics session included a set of optics and acoustic demos run by STAIRSTEP seniors Suzanne Wheeler of Port Arthur and John Pickren of Beaumont and two faculty, James Drachenberg, assistant professor of physics and Cristian Bahrim, professor of physics.  This was followed by 15 minutes of entertainment, when the students learned about principles and laws of physics by taking turns and playing with a rotating platform, spinning wheels, a van der Graff machine, collisional tracks, magnetic jumping rings and electric motors.

STAIRSTEP will be hosting two visits by Central High School students later in the month.

STAIRSTEP’s goal is to increase the number of undergraduates getting degrees in STEM.  The program received a 2013 Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for its contributions to closing the gaps in higher education in Texas.  The program is funded in part this year by a grant from ExxonMobil.

For more information, please visit http://www.lamar.edu/stairstep/ or contact University Professor Peggy Doerschuk, director of STAIRSTEP at peggy.doerschuk@lamar.edu.