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SUPER students get a head start on college life

Physics professor Peter Sheldon speaks to SUPER students at Kings Dominion theme park - one of several field trip destinations during the program.

Physics professor Peter Sheldon speaks to SUPER students at Kings Dominion theme park – one of several field trip destinations during the program.

For the first-year students enrolled in the Step Up to Physical Science and Engineering at Randolph College (SUPER) scholarship program, life at Randolph College has already begun.

As part of the two-week, three-credit SUPER College Transition Program, 23 students are getting a head start on math and science courses and learning about the services offered by the College to help them succeed in their field. The scholarships have been funded for the last three years by a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program.

Randolph physics professor Peter Sheldon started the SUPER program as to make college more accessible for math and science majors. “From the outset, we are preparing the students for a career in science, so we’re making sure they stay on track in order to be successful in college and in a career in science,” he said.

This year, one of the themes of the program is vehicle accidents and the physics behind crashes. For one lab test, students are placing eggs in plastic, toy cars for crash simulations and attempting to prevent them from breaking on impact. For a more realistic simulation, the group visited the Institute for Highway Safety, where students observed live crash tests involving real vehicles.

Students ride a rollercoaster at Kings Dominion.

SUPER students ride a rollercoaster at Kings Dominion.

Another element of the program has been practicing the methods of measuring speed and velocity. Students have been launching projectiles on front campus and clocking them with high-speed cameras. This week, the group visited Kings Dominion theme park in Doswell, where students calculated the top speeds and other statistics for some of their favorite rollercoaster rides.

“The Summer Transition Program is an intense, but fun academic experience,” said Sheldon. “Students are in class for three to four hours a day, but we do punctuate that a lot with the field trips.”

After completing the Summer Transition Program, first-year SUPER students participate in seminars, study halls, and other activities throughout the fall and spring semesters. The program also helps students find STEM internships and connects them with professionals in the engineering and science field who serve as industry mentors.

“The industry mentors show our students what it’s like in the real world,” Sheldon said. “Mentors take them to conferences, meetings, and workshops and show them their workplace. Plus, we’ve already had students get internships through their mentors.”

A new addition to the program this year is a student mentorship component that will link older Randolph students with the first-years.

SUPER has shown its effectiveness in preparing students for the rigor of college, but also in keeping them interested in the science fields throughout their education.

SUPER students asked questions about internships and learned how to write resumes during a College Transition Program session.

SUPER students asked questions about internships and learned how to write resumes during a College Transition Program session.

“Some of the strongest students at the College are in the program,” said Sheldon. “It’s been a successful program, and we’ve been very successful at helping students get internships, which may be the most important thing they do. To get a job or to get into grad school, they have to have those internships and research experiences.”

For Geoff Hicks ’19, an engineering physics major from Lynchburg, enrolling in the program was a no-brainer. “There are so many benefits,” he said. “You learn about internship opportunities, you get a lot of extra help and support from the faculty, and it feels great being part of a community of like-minded individuals who can talk and joke about science and understand each other.”

For more information about SUPER or to apply for the 2016 program, please visit https://www.randolphcollege.edu/research/stem-scholarships/



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