Hands-on STEM education brings renewable energy to life for students from Lower Kuskokwim, Kenai Peninsula at ANSEP Middle School Academy


ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program is hosting 54 students from the Lower Kuskokwim and Kenai Peninsula Borough school districts at its second Middle School Academy of this school year. Throughout the two-week, residential Middle School Academy component, students will participate in hands-on activities designed to spark an early interest in higher education and STEM careers.

Today, students assembled their own insulation barriers inside of a wooden box, or a “snug house,” which models actual arctic building walls. Led by Renewable Energy Alaska Project professionals, the interactive project teaches students the importance of balancing heating costs and heating efficiency using different types of insulation. After assembling their own insulation barriers using R-value and renewable energy sources, students conducted temperature tests and calculated cost efficiency of their designs.

“Few people in the world understand the challenges facing the Arctic better than Alaskans. However, many students in rural communities don’t correlate their need for affordable, reliable energy to an interest in STEM careers,” said ANSEP Founder and Vice Provost Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder. “Hands-on engineering activities aimed at solving everyday challenges show students how they can use a STEM career to support environmental conservation, cost reduction and other problems that impact life in rural Alaska.”

Following a collegiate-style application process, 54 students were chosen to participate in the February Middle School Academy. They represent 18 different Alaska communities:

  • Bethel: Julia Andrew, Nolan Blevins, Lauren Cedars, Zahcory Jacobs-McDonald, Kennedy Johnson, Justin Larson, George Lee IV, Sydney Lincoln, Emilie Madson, Madison McMillen, David Nanalook, Warren Nicolai Jr., Jasey Pace, Ned Peters, Rory Peters, Ethan Sparck, Adrian Steve, Aaliyah Wasuli and Elenor Whitney
  • Chefornak: Logan Larsen
  • Eek: Oran Brown
  • Goodnews Bay: Clyde Chingliak, Melvin Pavala and Leah Shimanek
  • Kenai: Esther Joseph, Reymond Perez, Owen Smith and Emilee Wilson
  • Kongiganak: Meagan Charlie and Zacharias Duncan
  • Kwigillingok: Emily Kiunya and Frank St. Denis
  • Mekoryuk: Ethan Williams
  • Moose Pass: Teak Barhaug
  • Napakiak: Tamaralria Nelson
  • Newtok: Margaret Andy, Emerald Carl, Rayna Charles, Fallyn Connelly, Jason Ekamrak and Thaddeus John
  • Nikiski: Nolan Boehme
  • Ninilchik: Jillian Miller
  • Platinum: Jocelyn Small
  • Quinhagak: Annalise Mark and Shirley Roberts
  • Soldotna: Robert Carson, Lucas Ermold, Gavin Jones and Zakariya Williams
  • Toksook Bay: Justin Charlie and Charles Maxie 

In addition to testing snug houses, students built computers, conducted earthquake engineering activities and visited the Alaska SeaLife Center. The innovative curriculum introduces the students to practical applications for STEM education in everyday life. By housing the students on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus and exposing them to the college lifestyle, Middle School Academy inspires students from across Alaska to envision college as part of their future. An added incentive is that any student who stays on track to complete Algebra 1 before eighth grade is eligible to keep the computer he or she built.

By engaging with students at the middle school level, ANSEP is inspiring students to prioritize education and providing them with the resources to succeed in high school, college and beyond. There are currently more than 2,500 students in the ANSEP pipeline and students who stay involved with the program can graduate high school with two years or more of college complete. Learn more about ANSEP and its components at www.ANSEP.net.