PEARL RIVER, NY August 19, 2019 — These 75 middle school students at St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) never dreamed they’d spend part of their summer vacation like this.

Analyzing blood spatter, processing fingerprints, collecting evidence, identifying suspects and a variety of other crime scene investigation pursuits — a kind of CSI-STAC — all are just part of the course work in an innovative summer studies camp program for highly motivated area middle school students at St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) in Sparkill.

The STAC Summer STEAM program aims to develop in students the 21st century version of problem solving, teamwork, collaboration and communication by making classroom work in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) stimulating, timely and engaging, according to Dr. Suzanne Reynolds, assistant dean of STAC’s School of Education and director of the STAC Summer STEAM program.

Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R) has donated $50,000 to St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) to help fund this program over the next two years. O&R also donated $50,000 to support the program through 2017 and 2018.

“We view the elements of this program as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking,” Dr. Reynolds said. “The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem solving, embrace collaboration and work through the creative process.”

In addition to forensics study, other courses in the program include innovative hands-on studies in drone and robotics operation, virtual reality development, mathematics and art. A new course features developing apps, where students will gain hands-on experience by working with Apple’s Software Development Kit (SDK) for iOS and building custom apps for Apple’s best-selling devices.

O&R’s donation is part of the company’s commitment to promoting educational initiatives that enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning.

For example, earlier this year, O&R awarded Dominican College a two-year $22,000 grant to initiate a collaborative effort with Lamont Doherty Earth Science Center to help develop STEM skills among local secondary school students participating in its Research Immersion in Science and Ecology (RISE) program. That program focuses on microbiology, chemistry and biodiversity.

For the 2019-2020 school year, O&R also has awarded over $54,000 in STEM Classroom Grants to 63 STEM programs at schools (pre-kindergarten through grade 12) and youth groups in communities located within O&R’s service area. That encompasses: Rockland and parts of Orange and Sullivan counties in New York and parts of Bergen, Passaic and Sussex counties in New Jersey.

The STAC program began in 2012 with 26 students recruited from public and parochial schools in Rockland, northern Bergen and Southern Westchester counties. The program is offered to students entering grades six, seven and eight, meaning students who range in age from 11 to 13 years-old.

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