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NCSSM Accelerator camp helps student find STEM passion

Summertime is a gift of opportunity for learning beyond the regular curriculum and expanding one’s knowledge. My name is Sasha Surkin. I am currently in grade nine, and this is the story of the beginning of the rest of my life.         

During the summer of grade seven, I had a goal of learning about engineering, design, and robotics. I am very interested in STEM, which is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, so I began a search for a camp experience that would immerse me in these fields, broaden my horizons, and spur on more interests. I went to many camps, and each one was special in its own way, and I learned many new and fascinating things.

The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Early Accelerator camps for Women in Engineering and Robotics were two of my favorite camps. I had the privilege to be taught by wonderful teachers and mentors, who encouraged, inspired, and instilled in me that the possibilities for young girls are limitless.  

Minute to win it challenge! Get the Oreo from your forehead to your mouth in 1 minute!

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One of my favorite activities at Women in Engineering was the simple paper plane test, but it was not as simple as one may think. First, I had the opportunity to learn about aerodynamic principles, which revealed to me many possibilities of not just paper airplanes, but perhaps real ones in the future. Then I attempted to construct a plane using tape and paper, which would be launched with a plastic straw. While this may seem elementary, it was no easy task. I persevered and succeeded in making a plane that flew. I learned that with determination and self-confidence, anything can be accomplished.  

The following week, I went back to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and took part in a Robotics camp, taught by the wonderful teacher, mentor, and friend, Dr. Joe LoBuglio. I came into this camp with little robotics experience, but a lot of curiosity and eagerness to learn. I have to admit, at first, it was really challenging. Learning how the programming, sensors, and mainframe functioned was complicated. But if nothing challenges you, nothing changes you. I made sure to engross myself in the class and dedicated to extra practice.  Eventually, I grasped the concepts and was so happy I did not give up.

I may not have known it immediately, but these two camps were my portal into an amazing year. My experiences at Early Accelerator gave me the confidence to participate in several extracurricular events this year: Robotics, Science Olympiad, and Envirothon.

I tried out for a robotics team in my hometown. I was accepted into the team, earning fifth place at our state competition and can now compete internationally in Europe. I also participated in Science Olympiad this year and was assigned three events or challenges. In one of these challenges, I had to construct and plane that would compete for the longest time aloft. My experience at Women in Engineering was immensely valuable when I was deciding the key factors of the plane.

Winning first place in all of my events, I will continue on to go to our state Science Olympiad competition. I also competed in Envirothon this year. It was a wonderful experience, and we qualified for the state competition and hope to go to nationals.  

Early Accelerator at NCSSM showed me a world that I had never before experienced. It expanded my horizons, and as one of my favorite scientists used to say,

                  “The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein

My time at Early Accelerator gave me an experience of a lifetime, and I will never forget how it opened many doors for me for the future and helped me believe that I really can do anything.

Sasha Surkin

Sasha Surkin is a ninth grader at The Oakwood School in Greenville.