Bryan students engage with Texas A&M for hands-on learning

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BRYAN, Texas - Students at Neal Elementary School in Bryan have teamed up with Texas A&M with the goal of hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

The students presented their projects Friday to A&M students and faculty from the Colleges of Education and Human Development, Architecture, Engineering, and Liberal Arts.

For Neal student Angel Salinas, his favorite part of this collaboration: "I get to work with circuits."

It's helping him and others develop skills in those STEM fields. The hope is to keep kids engaged in these subjects now so they keep working in them and further their education.

Salinas' goal: "I want to become an engineer."

"It's really exciting to see it actually happen in the classroom," said Neal teacher Kayla Garner. "I see a lot of my students who maybe wouldn't normally be interested in science or in math or in reading. They are actually engaged."

This collaboration has been in the works for nearly a year, and is part of a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

"Each year our partnerships with Texas A&M grow more and more," said Bryan ISD Superintendent Tommy Wallis, "and this grant that we're using with Texas A&M is two more years, so we're going to continue to see even better technology, even better science projects."

A&M students and professors visit the Neal elementary students every six weeks.

"The Maker lab will come for a week of our instruction," said Garner, "and then we will do the same exact lessons that we would normally do during class time, but we also incorporate the making activities in the hope that the lessons are more engaging."

Students create everything from robots made of cups to earthquake displays. The instructors working with them say they're seeing how the learning is progressing.

"We are already seeing some indication they are thinking of themselves more positively as possible scientists," said Texas A&M professor Francis Quek. "They're more responsive to our questions, as what you want to be when your grow up."