Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program is serious fun
Like many 11-year-olds, Blaine Hayes enjoys playing on the computer.
Unlike many 11-year-olds, Hayes knows how to build a computer.
“It’s cool to learn about technology,” he said.
Hayes, the grandson of tribal Elder Phyllis Bookey, recently attended the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program’s Middle School Academy at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. The two-week program gave 53 students from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and Lower Kuskokwim school districts hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering and math activities.
Commonly known as ANSEP, the program prepares students for education and careers in science, engineering and related fields. It hosts academies for students in sixth through 12th grades, accepting participants through an application process based on grades, an essay and other criteria.
Hayes, a sixth-grader at Sterling Elementary School, attended for the first time in February. Participants stayed in campus dormitories and completed a range of projects requiring problem-solving, critical thinking and other skills.
In one project, Hayes built a computer out of loose computer parts and got to take home the machine – under a condition. If he doesn’t maintain a C-average and complete Algebra 1 before high school, he must reimburse the program for the cost of the computer.
Hayes also built a bridge out of balsa wood, testing the bridge’s strength by placing weight in the middle.
“I love technology and finding out how it works and learning about machines,” Hayes said. “I like seeing how things goes together and how they work when you’re done.”
Hayes said he would like to participate in another academy – ANSEP hosts multiple sessions each year – because it was a good experience on many levels.
He met new friends from across Alaska. He learned about things that interest him. And he balanced hard work with exciting activities.
“It was a way to have fun for two weeks, but also be in school,” Hayes said. “They like to have fun, but they also take things very seriously.”