The Kyrene Centennial Middle School gymnasium was packed with people on Thursday night, a tribute to a unique program that brought together doctoral students and sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders from around the district.

Thursday’s ceremony marked the end of the latest session of a partnership between Arizona State University, Science Foundation Arizona, and the Kyrene School District. Called the ASU Citizen Scientist-Engineer @ Kyrene, the program saw Science Foundation Arizona’s ASU Graduate Research Fellows working with their middle school counterparts on projects related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) for the past nine weeks.

“I appreciate the ASU students coming and working with us,” seventh-grader Ryan Luc said. “I have always liked science so I definitely wanted to do this.”

The culmination of the most recent session was science fair-esqe projects that were spread around the gym at Centennial on Thursday for parents and community members to see. Projects were hands-on and involved topics such as clean water filtration and the imagination of alien life forms. The program began three years ago at Centennial and has since spread to five other schools within the district. It is funded by Science Foundation Arizona and Dr. Tirupalavanam Ganesh oversees the program as a professor at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“I love this program,” Centennial principal Ev Michell said. “It just keeps getting better and better.”

Arizona State University President Michael Crow in a statement said, “This program demonstrates one of the many ways in which ASU strengthens its communities. We are motivating the next generation of innovators by collaborating with middle school students and their teachers. We are enhancing learning opportunities for our K-12 students by engaging our science and engineering doctoral students in creating innovative ways to enhance interest in the STEM fields.”

The Kyrene Middle School teachers who help direct the after-school program also speak positively about the effect on the students.

“They love it and working with graduate students, those who are making it a career, you can tell makes them feel more confident about their abilities and drives their passion for science,” Centennial teacher Melissa Melville said.

To find out more about Science Foundation Arizona, visit http://www.sfaz.org.

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