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Middle and high school students compete for math and science awards
Milton Bond
May 18, 2012

A student prepares his robot for the next round The Elizabeth City State University North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network (NC-MSEN) Pre-College Program recently hosted the 26th Annual MSEN Day statewide academic competition.

UNC system universities with NC-MSEN Pre-College Program sites come together annually for MSEN Day to compete in math, science and Science Olympiad type competitions. Approximately 750 students, program directors, chaperones and volunteers came to the campus for the competitions held from early morning to late afternoon.

The ECSU NC-MSEN Pre-College Program provides academic enrichment experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to more than 150 students in grades 6 through 12 from six neighboring counties – Bertie, Chowan, Gates, Hertford, Pasquotank, and Perquimans.

In addition to ECSU, the following universities participated in the day-long competitions: Fayetteville State University, North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, and Winston-Salem State University.

NC-MSEN Pre-College Program sites select students from cities and counties in their service regions. Teams are chosen based on student enrollment in math and science courses, as well as overall grade average in those courses. Math and science competitions are required to have three-member teams, whereas Science Olympiad type competitions have two-member teams. Competing universities may bring up to 80 students to participate in 26 different math, science and Science Olympiad type events at MSEN Day. In the areas of mathematics and science, high school and middle school students competed for state championships in sections ranging from sixth-grade math through calculus and sixth-grade science through physics.

Engineering competitions also were hosted that challenged the students’ ability to construct straw towers, which were tested for load strength, and bottle rockets, which were measured by time aloft. The highly competitive robotics event challenged its participants in the design and programming of robots able to navigate unassisted through mazes. Other MSEN Day competitions included writing, art and oratory in which one of our own ECSU NC-MSEN students, Tabreah Tatem, a sophomore from Northeastern High School, won first place in the High School Division.

MSEN Pre-College Program participants view MSEN Day as the pinnacle of the academic year. Students are excited about participating in the annual event and spend the entire year preparing. To compete, they use their knowledge from enrichment activities during Saturday Academy combined with what they have learned within their respective school districts. Milton Bond, director for the program at ECSU, has seen a number of middle and high school participants in the MSEN Pre-College Program enroll at ECSU and graduate with honors. As a result, he is confident of the program’s success. “MSEN Day provides our students the ability to showcase what they have learned from their Saturday Academy Enrichment experiences here at ECSU and what they learn in area schools. It’s events like MSEN Day and programs like MSEN that spark and maintain students’ interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and desire to attend college,” Bond said. “The critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for these events are vital for the 21st century workforce. We try to incorporate hands-on events like tower building, bottle rockets and others, throughout the program to prepare students for thinking outside the box.” Bond said the students earned medals for each of the 26 events held across four competition sites on campus.

The NC-MSEN Pre-College Program offers a rigorous curriculum in mathematics, science, communications, and career awareness sessions during Saturday Academy classes held on the campus of ECSU. Students who participate at ECSU meet for 12 to 15 Saturdays from October through April.

Participants for the NC MSEN program are chosen based their application, their grade point averages and recommendations by their teachers. ECSU has offered the NC-MSEN Pre-College Program for approximately 26 years. Approximately 10 ECSU faculty and staff were involved with the program this year. Two full-time staff members coordinate the program, while faculty members provide motivational speeches, demonstrations and provide career overviews for the participants. The summer program offers a preview of campus facilities as well as instruction in the areas of math, science and technology.