STEM YEA is a four-day three-night residential STEM-focused Academy providing equitable opportunities for rising eighth-grade students. The Academy delves into intriguing STEM areas while inspiring and engaging the students. These young people and their parents may not otherwise have an opportunity such as this. The program, sponsored by Rotary Clubs in District 7430, was held at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA July 6 through 9, 2023. The theme was “Astrobiology: The Search for Life on Mars”.

Forty-five students attended the second Academy. There were 23 female and 22 male students from 26 public middle and charter schools. There were no accidents or injuries. Nineteen District 7430 Rotary Clubs sponsored students for STEM YEA 2023. The North Penn Club sponsored eight students; Allentown sponsored five. Students received STEM YEA tee shirts, white lab coats, backpacks, water bottles, lab manuals, drawing pencils, antimicrobial pens, and copies of the session manual.

Many friendships were forged at the event and our 2023 STEM YEA Alumni are keeping in touch.



STEM sessions in addition to project building, team building and Rotary informational sessions were held over the three and ½ day period. Students built habitats, rovers, and landers from ordinary materials to display at the Science Fair before the Celebration Dinner.

Stephanie Landis, M.Ed., Principal of Boyertown Middle School West served as the Director for STEM YEA 2023. Four certified science teachers engaged and instructed our STEM YEA students during the event. They were: Brandy Solomon, Boyertown Middle School, Lauren Hirsch, Steve Rhodes and Adam Molis of the Wilson School District. Two interns, Lauren Murphy and Emelly Tiburcio, both graduates of Kutztown University with degrees in Astrobiology assisted. Conlan Gilmor, a current King’s College graduate, also served as an Intern. Anu and Ana Batdelger, Mongolian students currently studying computer science at Gannon College, rounded out our crew of great interns.

Lauren and Emelly, Interns from Kutztown University with Professor Phil, who provided a show in the Planetarium.

Astronomers from Berks Astronomy presented on July 6th and 8th in the KU Academic Forum building to the delight of our Students. Professor Phillip A. Reed, Ph.D., from Kutztown University, provided a special program show in the Kutztown Planetarium on Friday, July 7th our students enjoyed meeting Dr. Reed. Their main comment was “he looks like a scientist”.

Based on student feedback from the 2022 STEM YEA class, we added more team-building sessions to give students more opportunities to get to know each other. Activities included corn hole, board games, puzzles, and a visit to a portable planetarium. On “early nights” (around 9:00 PM), the students had the option of watching movies in the gathering space at Lehigh Hall. Movies included “The Martian” and “Hidden Figures”.

Two Rotary sessions provided opportunities for our STEM YEA 2023 students to learn about Rotary. One session included a lively game of Rotary bingo, where various Rotary Youth activities were featured. Another session featured 12 participants from Rotary Youth activities “ZOOMING” to talk about their Rotary experiences. The participants included Rotary Youth Exchange students and Interactors from around the globe.

Ana and Anu, were interns for STEM YEA. They are Computer Science students from Mongolia studying at Gannon College.

District 7430 Rotary Volunteers

Forty-two volunteers monitored students overnight in the dorms and engaged with students during the daytime sessions. The volunteers had meals with the students and enjoyed working with them in the labs and in team-building activities. Please see the Facebook post below from one of our volunteers.

Choosing to spend the weekend or most of it with forty-five 8th graders was a big decision. My body is cranky at this age, and yet I jumped at the chance. It was STEM.

Stimulating, Thought provoking, Energizing and Meaningful.

Stimulating is watching their fear, trepidation, and enthusiasm.

Prying them away from their loving, concerned parents was a consideration. For some, it was the first time their child was away from home, let alone in a college dorm room shared with a stranger.

The kids had the authority to make choices about preferences for activities. Having them label their water bottles, backpacks, and tee shirts to prevent loss and disease. Meeting the nurse if they needed to. And finding their rooms.

Thought Provoking — The classes started with a big idea, for instance, "Is there water on Mars?". In this case, the teachers brought sand, stones, water, trays, buckets, and tubing for one of the experiments. Then the questions—What happens? What were the results? These kids' brains were being pried open by experts.

Energizing—You can't miss being personally energized hanging around smart, curious, unstoppable eighth graders.

Meaningful— I walked behind four boys who had met only two days before. They were sharing intimate details about their lives. One asked, "Does your mind ever stop working? " The other said, "NO!". They made a friend for life this weekend.

It was a STEM weekend for me, too! I got to play in the sandbox and see future doctors, geophysicists, astrophysicists, biologists, mathematicians, and scientists learn about learning.

With their own labcoats they learned the meaning of intention.

The Big Ticket Fundraiser

A very successful reverse raffle fundraiser was held at the Pottstown Country Club on April 15.

The guest speaker was Dr. Peter R. Kowey, cardiologist and medical mystery author. All who attended thoroughly enjoyed the music, dancing, food, fellowship, and a caricaturist. The ticket entitled participants to a fun evening including hors d'oeuvre, drinks, dinner, and a lottery ticket with a chance to win one of numerous prizes. It was an evening of FUN!

Fun Facts

One hundred seventy-five students, parents, grandparents, volunteers, sponsors/donors, and Rotary District 7430 leaders attended the Celebration Dinner which was held at the McMillan Student Union Building at the University. Students were presented with Certificates of Completion and Planetary Finders. Many sponsoring Rotary Clubs have invited STEM YEA 2023 students to attend and speak at Rotary Club meetings. Parents often attend and provide thank yous and favorable comments about the STEM YEA experience.

Please join us to sponsor STEM YEA 2024 scheduled for July 2024. This may be the only chance for these students and their parents to participate in a program that will build STEM-focused future citizens.