STEM YEA Class of 2022, Mission to Mars
Two and half years of work finally came to fruition this July when 41 Ascending 7th graders were registered for the first Rotary District 7430 Science Technology Engineering & Math Youth Explorer Academy (STEM YEA).  Twenty-one Rotary clubs sponsored students including two from our club and two from Harleysville.  For those of you who are not familiar with STEM YEA, it is a 4 day, 3 night academy for underserved middle school students with a multi-discipline curriculum based on the theme, “Astrobiology, the search for life on Mars”.  It was held on the Albright College campus in Reading, Berks County, PA,
The program grew out of a Zoom presentation made by SETI, a non-profit space research entity to the Allentown Rotary Club.  Mike Orbin, an Allentown club member, is a space enthusiast and was looking for an interesting club program and came upon SETI in his search.  He formed an exploratory committee to see how we could use the SETI connection to build a District educational program.  He invited Al Engel to join who in turn invited Charlie Amuso.  Having personally had the Camp Neidig experience, Al was inspired to draw on that model and propose a long weekend camp focusing on STEM to the exploratory committee.  The concept was accepted unanimously and proposed to the District Executive Committee for consideration mid-January 2021 when Janet Kolepp was District Governor.  Karen Campbell, Reading Club Rotarian and Provost of Albright College who worked as a regional coordinator with Al as Chair of the District Four Way Test Speech Contest, was approached in February 2021 to consider hosting the academy for a July 2022 rollout.  She responded affirmatively and immediately started working with ST Rotarian Charlie Amuso who assumed the role of Curriculum Director.
The Souderton-Telford club can take great pride in the significant role it has taken in the development of this District program and the financial support we have provided by being a founding club sponsor as part of a District Grant application.  Some of our members have also supported us financially and were significant participants in organizing a STEM YEA fund raiser on April 30, 2022 here at our IVCC meeting site which raised $18,000.
We have several members who served as volunteers over the last weekend supporting the faculty and assuring the safety of the students.  Kate Hoath, her daughter Alison, Nicole Spiese along with other club members already mentioned, were among the team.
The students were sponsored by 21 clubs in the District and will leave the Albright College Campus with lifelong memories of their mission to Mars and the new friendships made.  It is very likely that this program will become an annual event and ultimately inspire hundreds if not thousands of students to weigh their career options and consider a STEM path.  We are indebted to all the sponsoring clubs for their faith in a new idea and especially the Allentown and Allentown West clubs for their contributions of talent and financial support.  Mike Orbin, who discovered SETI, has worked tirelessly on the myriad of details involved in producing such a program.  As the complexity grew, he invited Gwenn Carr and Gary Englehardt from Allentown West to join the team to provide project management services.
Led by Charlie Amuso, the curriculum team, comprising representatives from SETI, SRI, and other educators from Rotary, developed a unique educational experience drawing on prior work done by SETI for the Girl Scouts and SRI’s exploratory learning innovations.  Our club can be proud of being at the forefront of developing a new District Youth Services program along with members of the Allentown, Allentown West and Boyertown Clubs.  Darlene Scott, District Youth Services Chair and Upper Perk member, says, “Our youth is our future; providing educational enhancement and leadership development opportunities should be one of the highest callings of Rotary.”