Inaugural STEAM summer camp holds graduation

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Some Jackson kids spent six weeks of their summer vacation in STEAM, and they didn’t mind because we’re not talking about the heat.

STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art, and math, and Friday was graduation day for this inaugural summer camp.

The facility is called the MAKERSPACE, and on Friday, the chairs were arranged for graduation ceremonies. For six weeks now, mostly Jackson Public Schools students, 60 of them, have been using the space, immersed in a variety of tech and arts-related projects. Students like 14-year-old Amari Roberts.

Asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Amari Roberts said,” I’m probably a bioengineer. Something definitely I can work with the team to get a big project done.”

Derrick Chapman, a Jackson Public Schools teacher, is one of the people paid to mentor these campers.

Chapman said,” I enjoy teaching the kids. We had a good group that was highly motivated. They learned how to program robots. They learned how to code in different languages, like block code in Java, and they learned how to fly drones. They learned about circuits, just the whole gamut of engineering and robotics.”

All of this is the brainchild of Jackson native and JPS product Dr. Nashlie Sephus, a highly successful computer engineer and entrepreneur. She says the STEAM summer camp is absolutely free.

“This is a great pilot program. Definitely look for this for after school as well,” said Dr. Sephus.

Her vision for this neighborhood is beginning to take shape. The MAKERSPACE is part of a $150 million project to transform a once-blighted 12-acre stretch of Gallatin Street into the Jackson Tech District, a hub of opportunity, including retail and residential space. The old Oliver Van Horn building has been renovated and now serves as headquarters for Dr. Sephus’ non-profit, The Bean path.

Dr. Sephus said,” If you’re not associated with a college or university, there’s really no place for you to go to get this type of tech training and free access. So we want to be that place where they can come and get that. We also have a membership model where adults can have 24-hour access to the building. If you need access to a soldering iron, if you need access to our laser cutter, or our 3d printers, we have them here, and we’re getting more equipment as we go.”

Dr. Sephus said there’s more to come, but for kids like Amari Roberts, there’s a greater meaning, and he said he plans to be back next summer.

" It means a lot. It means like friends and building and a fun time,” Amari Roberts said. “I don’t just have to sit at home all day, you know.”

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