Hands handling wires


New York Tech Students Coach Budding STEM Scholars

September 14, 2023

This summer, eight New York Tech students representing the School of Architecture and Design, the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences spread out across the New York City and Long Island campuses to coach at this year’s Middle School Summer Maker Academy.

Supported by a grant from the VOYA Foundation, the weeklong summer camp program, spearheaded by the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences, has young students come together to brainstorm tech-infused, environmentally friendly solutions to real-world challenges.

“Young people’s involvement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) projects is crucial because it encourages critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, teamwork, communication, and collaboration, which are essential skills,” says Divya Oturkar, a UX/UI design and development student who coached at the New York City campus’s academy. “Young minds are exposed to cutting-edge technologies and real-world applications, fostering a sense of curiosity and a passion for learning.”

From July 31 through August 4, the budding STEM scholars were tasked with creating a sustainable smart building that incorporated different ways to save energy, thus creating minimal environmental fallout—a lesson in how many communities around the world lack the provisions for safe and clean living spaces for their local populations. Some of the projects included smart homes or smart towns.

“The projects presented to students at the academy promote awareness related to improving the world, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 11,” explains Meng Cheng Ma, a computer science student who also coached at New York City’s Academy. “These exceptional middle school students participated in a dynamic and intensive week.”

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 states, “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.” This goal raises awareness that hundreds of millions of people globally are living with poor air quality, a lack of public transport and green public spaces, and underdeveloped roadways and living spaces.

In addition to this smart building challenge were individual and team-based mini challenges and projects throughout the week to help students hone their STEM skills and win prizes, ultimately leading to the last day of camp when they presented their smart building proposals.

3-D modeling, 3-D printing, laser cutting and engraving, augmented reality, and Arduino programming (a coding language) were just a few of the many skills and techniques students experimented with over the the week.

“The academy can empower the next generation to make meaningful contributions to society,” says Oturkar, who took home a prize for best leadership and team building. “As a coach, I not only contributed to these young minds’ growth but also learned invaluable lessons from them. The Middle School Summer Maker Academy stands as a beacon of innovation, teamwork, and a shared vision for a sustainable, inclusive future.”

The New York Tech students who coached at this year’s Middle School Summer Maker Academy are:

  • Parker Mixon, Life Sciences, B.S.
  • Divya Oturkar, UX/UI Design and Development, M.A.
  • Meghna Sharma, Computer Science, B.S.
  • Navraj Singh, Computer Science, B.S.
  • Armaan Binning, Computer Science, B.S.
  • Devin Alvarez, Electrical and Computer Engineering, B.S.
  • Famida Asrafi, Computer Science, B.S.
  • Meng Cheng Ma, Computer Science, B.S.

On the heels of this year’s program conclusion, the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences received the 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for the 2022 Summer Maker Academy.