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SFU expands technology outreach in Surrey schools

Students in the Surrey School District participate in the Sticks and Stars program, run by the district together with Simon Fraser University, including two-day sessions at the Surrey campus during spring break. - Photo submitted
Students in the Surrey School District participate in the Sticks and Stars program, run by the district together with Simon Fraser University, including two-day sessions at the Surrey campus during spring break.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Simon Fraser University is working with the Surrey School District and HR MacMillan Space Centre to offer more elementary students a taste of engineering, computing and science by delivering in-classroom activities this spring.

For the past three years, SFU has been one of the many community partners in the Surrey School District’s after-school Sticks and Stars program, which identifies at-risk boys aged 9-11 and provides them with extracurricular activities and role models.

The program aims to help these boys make positive life choices by introducing them to space science, hockey and technology, some of which they would not have the opportunity to explore on their own.

The boys have visited the Surrey campus and participated in Lego robot building, programming and Lego sumo battles, in sessions led by SFU undergraduate students and faculty members.

This spring, thanks to funding through the SFU Community Engagement Fund, SFU will be able to deliver technology programming in schools, reaching boys and girls as well as a wider range of grades.

“Sticks and Stars is proving to be a very successful after-school program, developed by our district to provide young, at-risk boys a fun way to be introduced to and absorbed in science-related topics and activities,” says Surrey Board of Education Chair Shawn Wilson. “It’s fantastic to have partners like SFU and the HR MacMillan Space Centre on board to expand these learning opportunities and reach out to girls as well.”

Adds Steve Dooley, executive director at SFU’s Surrey campus: “Engaging with schools in our community to help excite young students about their education is a natural fit for SFU. We’re excited to be partners in this program and to see this initiative take off with the new in-classroom component delivered by young, well-trained SFU students, as the outreach grows.”

Student instructors from SFU’s schools of Computing Science, Engineering Science and Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) will deliver the expanded technology programming in Surrey elementary schools.

So far, 12 in-classroom sessions showcasing how technology and science can be applied in everyday life are being planned at several schools. HR MacMillan Space Centre will train the SFU student leaders and advise on curriculum delivery. In addition, SFU chemistry instructor Sophie Lavieri will lead some of the general science sessions.

Reaching elementary-age students and encouraging them to participate in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs has also been shown to increase the likelihood they will pursue those areas of study in the future. Female student instructors from SFU will be recruited to deliver classroom activities and show that girls can be successful in science and technology.

The Surrey School District has several funding sources supporting its current Sticks and Stars program and expects to announce new program supporters, in addition to SFU, for its expanded STEM outreach initiatives.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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