(TNS) -- ANDERSON — As she links electrical wires to plastic disks and cubes, 13-year-old Alaisha Arthur doesn't seem to mind a bit that her school day often doesn’t end at 3:30 p.m.
The Daleville Jr-Sr. High School eighth-grader is one of about 20 students in Grades 6 through 12 participating in a monthlong Boiler Bang! science, technology, engineering and math program.
Boiler Bang!, believed to be the only free recreational STEM program in the county, is a partnership between the Anderson Township Trustee’s Girls and Boys Club and Purdue Polytechnic Anderson.
“I kind of like it because it’s kind of like school but it’s not really,” Alaisha said. “I like to build stuff, and I wanted to do stuff with math.”
Alaisha, who is considering a career as a doctor or lawyer, said the after-school program is right up her alley because math is her favorite subject.
“I like everything where you have to have one answer, not multiple answers,” she said.
The program, which takes place on the Purdue Polytechnic campus from 4:30 to 7 p.m., includes a wood shop class on Mondays and a robotics class on Wednesdays.
Larry McClendon, the Girls and Boys Club after-school program director, said it’s important for young people to continue learning even after the school day ends.
“We want to have more than recreation with the kids,” he said. “When you think of a STEM program, it covers it all for the kids and gets them college prepared.”
Many of the students who attend the after-school program might not have exposure to college preparation programs through their schools, McClendon said. Boiler Bang! closes that gap.
“That’s the importance of quality after-school programs. They enhance what happens in school,” he said. “That is what we desire most in the educational pieces in our programs.”
Spending time on a college campus also normalizes the experience for the students, allowing them to feel as if they belong there, McClendon said.
“They get to come to the actual facility and see what it feels like to be in a college room and get the college instruction,” he said. “Most of them thrive. There’s great minds in there.”
Boiler Bang! also is good for those preparing for a trade rather than college, McClendon said.
“I think we can excite them in a way the teachers can’t excite them,” he said.
Lorri Barnett, business leadership, industrial tech and supply chain lecturer at Purdue Polytechnic, leads the Boiler Bang! classes.
“For me, personally, it’s about engaging the community and what we have to offer here,” she said. “Partnering with the Boys and Girls Club allows us to show what we have here and to give back to the community in a small way.”
However, working with students in grades 6 through 12, requires some adjustment, Barnett said. For instance, she had to start by teaching the students safety since they are working with tools and equipment such as saws, blades and routers that present a higher level of possible injury than typical classroom materials.
In fact, Barnett said, many of the students didn’t know what a nine-volt battery was or how it was used.
“One of the girls said it’s hard to use these tools if you never had a dad,” she said.
Barnett said if she was able to reach one child and introduce her to things many take for granted, it was worth the experience.
“It’s about little insights where we see their face light up,” she said. “Maybe we open their eyes to the endless possibilities about who they might be when they grow up.”
Though STEM education is a primary goal of the Boiler Bang! program, students also receive valuable education about the ongoing attendance and performance standards that remain crucial as they continue their educations and enter the workforce.
For instance, program guidelines encourage attendance by not permitting students to attend Boiler Bang! on days when they are absent from school.
In addition, applicants for the program must have a grade point average of at least 2.5 on a four-point scale.
©2017 The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.