Mindbender Academy Inspires Students to Pursue STEaM Careers

Jun 23, 2017

The popularity of Frisco Education Foundation’s Mindbender Academy has continued to grow since it began in the summer of 2008.

Designed to engage incoming sixth, seventh and eighth grade students, the week-long camp is developed and run by Foundation in collaboration with civic and corporate organizations from the science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEaM) fields.

“Imagine if we could harness this energy every day in the classroom,” was the thought of Peter Burns, a past president of the FEF Board and chairman of the Mindbender program, as he stood in the atrium of the Career and Technical Education Center surrounded by fully-engaged middle school campers preparing for an engineering-inspired competition. “This is fantastic.”

This year’s Mindbender Academy was expanded to four one-week sessions, with morning and afternoon sessions the weeks of June 12-15 and June 19-23. The additional week allowed the Foundation to serve 800 Frisco ISD students, double the number as past years.

The first week, students choose from one of five tracks including coding and game design, film, performing arts, health science and science, and participated in project-based activities related to that subject all week long.

The second week was similar to past years, in that students explored different professional fields each day with volunteers from specific companies.

“Several companies helped with our project-based sessions, including iCode, The Movie Institute, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, Frisco Police Department and Sci-Tech Discovery Center,” said Audie Adkins of FISD, who has assisted with Mindbender for several years.

The second, traditional week featured activities and volunteers provided through Raytheon, Mary Kay Cosmetics and the Southwest Society of Cosmetic Chemists, Microsoft, Texas Instruments and Nokia/AT&T.

Raytheon provided 30 volunteers who offered their own personal time to Mindbender. The defense, civil government and cybersecurity solutions company donated $7,000 to Frisco Education Foundation to be used for Mindbender Academy this year.

Two other major supporters are Nokia and CoServ, who each donated $10,000 to the program. CoServ also brought out a food truck to support students and staffers.

“We are so thankful for the businesses and corporations who are willing to work with these young students and help them see how the STEaM fields work and how they can become the technology gurus, engineers and makers of the future,” said Allison Miller, director of the Frisco Education Foundation. “Every one of these adult professionals who is touching the lives of students may have a life-long impact.”

Shayla Bond is one of those students who admits that her forced attendance at Mindbender as a sixth-grader changed her outlook and her life.

“My mom signed me up. I definitely didn’t want to be here – you could see it on my face. There were not many girls in the beginning. I was all alone,” said the 2017 graduate of Independence High School.

A Raytheon-designed activity that called for building a balloon-powered car changed her attitude.

“I made mine very simple and then we raced them. Whoever’s car went the fastest would win. I got to the finals and won third place,” she said, remembering learning about how putting extras on the car would weigh them down and slow their speed. She still remembers the earth-shattering moment when she thought, “I made that!”

Bond says it was Mindbender, a camp she continued to attend and eventually worked at as a student volunteer in high school, that caused her to realize she liked engineering, math and science.

“It dawned on me it encompasses a lot of things,” she said.

Bond will be starting college at Hampton University in Virginia this fall. She is taking part in a five-year program where she will complete her bachelor’s degree and a Masters of Business Administration. In that time period, she will take a variety of STEaM-related classes to expand her skillset to be multidisciplinary.

Her goal is to be involved in the business side of cosmetology, perhaps someday owning her own makeup company – one that includes a natural approach that will appeal to young teens. She knows that will mean employing and working with engineers, physicians and chemists.

And it all began at Mindbender.

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