UW-Stout’s STEM Fest welcomes Upward Bound students from six regional high schools

Students’ hands-on experiences in biology, engineering labs show them what polytechnic degrees can offer
Upward Bound student, Dominic Fox, working on a circuit board.
Sky Willam | January 12, 2024

About 40 high school students from six northwestern Wisconsin schools recently visited the University of Wisconsin-Stout to participate in hands-on workshops at STEM Fest.

As participants in the Upward Bound program, the students have the opportunity to explore what colleges around Wisconsin and Minnesota have to offer through tours, hands-on learning experiences and engagement sessions.

UW-Stout welcomed the students with two workshops that demonstrated what a polytechnic university has to offer for degree programs and future careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Upward Bound students in Stout biology lab
Upward Bound students in UW-Stout biology lab. / UW-Stout

The students were from Barron, Hayward, Shell Lake, Siren, Turtle Lake and Unity. Through these hands-on experiences, they got a glimpse at what UW-Stout has to offer and could imagine themselves studying in a university lab, doing on day one. 

Sasha Weegman, adviser of the Upward Bound West Program, explained, “Upward Bound is a federal college readiness program. Our main goal is to help low-income and first-generation students get into college. We take a lot of college campus field trips and have a summer program on a college campus. We do a lot of work with the students during the school year to help them make sure they are on the right path to getting into college.”

UW-Stout professors and staff planned and led the activities, each of which focused on the electrical connections between biology and engineering.

Upward Bound student in Stout science lab
Summer Thorp, an Upward Bound student, working in UW-Stout science lab. / UW-Stout

Students split into two groups and explored two lab classrooms in UW-Stout’s Jarvis Hall Science Wing.

In the first lab, the students created a pulse rate monitor from a kit that included a breadboard, Arduino (brains of the circuit), an LED screen to output the sensor device and a pulse sensor to measure the pulse on their finger. When the students completed the circuit, they were able to visually see their pulse rate beat per minute.

Electrical engineering Professor Ahmet Turkmen wanted students to learn to, “use their imagination to build on the basic knowledge they learned from this lab to design more complicated circuits that could be used for diagnosis or monitoring of people's physiological condition.”

In the second lab, students did a series of mini-units, that included learning about how the nervous system works and visualizing how the nervous system communicates with their muscles, visualizing electrical messages as they travel through the heart, and seeing a real human brain and spinal cord, as well as a human heart with a pacemaker. 

Summer Thorp, a freshman at Hayward High School, reflected on her experience in the labs and said, “The whole experience was very new. We have not gone over anything about the nerves or heart system in school, and if we did it was very basic in middle school.”


Upward Bound student, Gunner Imme, working on lab with Tiffany Hoage, a UW-Stout biology lecturer. / UW-Stout

Gunner Imme, a sophomore at Siren High School who wants to go into biomedical engineering or biomedical chemistry, explained why doing on day one is so important to him. 

“I have to watch how someone does something, or I need to do it myself to learn it. Day one experiences give you job experience right then and there. At Stout, you get to learn things hands-on, which is extremely awesome because I don’t think I have ever seen a school do that. The small classes are amazing, so if you went to a huge college with like 300 kids, the professor wouldn’t even know your name. I feel like you would be able to get a connection with your professors here and get to know them.”

Bethany Bigner of Upward Bound working in science lab on bioelectrical engineering project. / UW-Stout

The students, who come from many backgrounds and have vast career aspirations, said they learned a lot from their day on campus. Many did not know UW-Stout offered so many hands-on labs that allow them to utilize equipment they could potentially use out in the field once they graduate.

They also said Upward Bound has given them the opportunity to see universities up close. 

“Upward Bound has helped me understand what my future could be if I go to college compared to if I don’t,” said Barron High School freshman Bethany Bigner, who wants to pursue forensic science or bioengineering. 

As a university industry partner, 3M sent representative Caroline Muehlenkamp to talk with the students and answer any of their questions about the company or the industry in general.

Muehlenkamp encouraged them to, “try new things because you never know what you might like to do.” She explained how she prepared herself for college by taking AP courses in high school and then went on to say, “try those different classes and clubs to see what you like and what you don’t like because it might surprise you.”

UW-Stout has collaborated with Upward Bound in the past and will continue this partnership to help show students what college and UW-Stout specifically have to offer them.

UW-Stout’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management offers 20 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs. 

Within CSTEMM, is the School of Engineering, offering undergraduate programs in computer and electrical engineering, manufacturing engineering, mechanical engineering and plastics engineering. CSTEMM's biology department offers undergraduate programs in applied biochemistry and molecular biology; applied science; and environmental science.


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