Phillips Scholar Samantha Adank ’16 spent more than a year researching and planning her project – a two-week STEM class for middle school-aged girls.
One word describes Adank’s STEM class – fun.
The excitement of Adank’s 10 students was tangible as they waited for a recent class to start. However, it doubled when they saw the word "zombie" incorporated in the itinerary listed on the board.
A math and education major, Adank knew exactly how to keep everyone engaged.
Adank is a Phillips Scholar, a program she stumbled across after looking up "Minnesota scholarships" as a first-year student at Concordia. Almost immediately she knew she wanted it.
“The reason the Phillips Scholarship stood out so much to me was that I wasn’t just receiving money and then moving on. I was doing something and they were actually training me to be better at the service work I do,” she says.
The Phillips Scholar Program selects six students from Minnesota private colleges each year to plan and implement a service project that meets a previously unmet need in Minnesota. Adank is the second of three Cobbers to receive the award in the past three years.
Originally a music education major, Adank switched to math education after she fell in love with a calculus class. After researching the gender gap in STEM fields, she decided to focus her project on further exposing middle school girls to the STEM topics – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The class she offered through Moorhead Community Education was for girls entering fourth-seventh grades.
She has seen firsthand how the gender gap can affect classrooms.
“I’m sometimes one of three other girls in a 30-person class, so it’s definitely real for me,” she says.
Women are statistically less likely to study a STEM topic in college and also less likely to get a job in a STEM field, Adank says.
“I think a lot of our memories stem back to that day in science where we had to do something and it wasn’t interesting. But these things I’m trying to do are a little bit more real life, a little bit more hands on,” she says.
Her classroom was full of hands-on experience. A homemade roller coaster ran off a table in the back. One of the girls put on a pair of 3-D glasses she had made herself. The class visited a planetarium.
The girls even created a mathematical model to predict how long it would take a few hypothetical zombies to take over the Fargo-Moorhead area. Of course, the math came after they acted out the scenario to collect data.
Adank stressed the concept of teamwork to her students. She hopes the girls walk away with positive memories of their experience and feel empowered. She also hopes the students recognize the role models and further STEM opportunities that already exist throughout the community.
When asked what she felt was the most rewarding part of the project was, Adank wasted no time in answering.
“The kids,” she says. “Always.”