Writer: Mark Cramer
For 16 years, New Mexico State University’s Reaching the Pinnacle program and its predecessors have been trailblazers in reaching out to students with disabilities. The program’s Regional Alliance Summer Science Institute (RASSI) has played a major role in this outreach.
Since 2006, Reaching the Pinnacle has sponsored RASSI in New Mexico and West Texas, with the mission to provide opportunities to high-school students that will help encourage them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics – STEM – fields. This year’s institute is June 13-17 on NMSU’s Las Cruces campus, and attendees will get firsthand experience with the “Mean Green Science Machine” – RASSI’s 2011 theme.
Students attending RASSI 2011 will be focused on going green. This year, activities such as recycling and chemistry in the community will be featured, as well as activities pertaining to the interests of young men and women. Also planned is a trip to the City of Las Cruces’ Waste Water Treatment Plant and the NMSU Recycling Center.
Students will learn how to purify water, make fashion accessories out of duct tape and recyclable materials, design an herb garden using compost and worms from personal worm farms, and construct a solar-powered oven. The institute takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. RASSI activities align with National Science Foundation goals and the Reaching the Pinnacle mission to recruit individuals with disabilities and increase awareness in STEM fields. The schedule is developed to help students focus on recycling, reusing and renewing in order to do their part to maintain a healthy environment for today and tomorrow. A total of 30 slots are reserved for students for this year’s southern New Mexico institute.
RASSI institutes are conducted each summer and offer high-school students an opportunity to explore STEM fields through hands-on, engaging activities. Themes vary annually and reflect current areas of interest in STEM education and research, including science field work, mathematics applied to biology, hot-air balloon physics, satellite design, robot building and programming, and design and prototyping of canoes, bridges and rockets.
Reaching the Pinnacle is primarily funded through a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, but RASSI largely relies on the generosity of volunteers to lead the programs and donate needed supplies and materials. Employees from Waste Management Industries will come to campus to speak to the RASSI participants at no charge, and volunteer NMSU faculty and local high-school teachers will lead the sessions. If interested in supporting RASSI, contact Randy Larry at 575-646-6051.
For applications and additional information on RASSI 2011, visit http://rtp.nmsu.edu/rassisummer-projects.html or call the RTP office at 575-646-6051.