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A Summer Bridge to College Life

STEM group

Seven incoming Schreiner University freshmen gained an inside track on college life during the first-ever Summer Bridge Research Experience for science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) majors, July 16-28.

Schreiner faculty met daily with the students, introducing them to biology, genetics, forensics, astronomy, chemistry and engineering. In addition to laboratory facilities in the Moody and Trull science buildings, field study sites such as the Loftis Family Science Center Observatory and the Guadalupe River were also part of the training.

The new students learned basics of algebra, pre-calculus and trigonometry. They also received training in library resources, organization, dealing with failure, making best use of advisors, and taking care of their physical and mental health. They worked one-on-one with Cecila Barlow, director of Schreiner’s Center for Digital Learning, to generate e-portfolios using the center’s technology.

Learning time management skills was important to Kaileen Nava, a Kerrville Tivy High School graduate who will major in biochemistry. “Keeping track of multiple assignments and due dates is going to be hard,” she said. “What we learned will help us ‘hit the ground running.’ It’s been a good experience.”


Current Schreiner students--selected for their academic achievement and campus involvement--mentored the new students. They also affirmed the “camp’s” value. “If this had been offered when I was a freshman, I would have done it,” said mentor Mayte Gonzales, a sophomore chemistry major from Brownsville.

At the end of the two weeks, participants had several opportunities to display what they learned or created. One of the most visible was a contest to build the strongest bridge out of spaghetti noodles. Using basic engineering, math and craftsmanship information provided Bryan Bernard, engineering professor, four teams constructed bridges using dry noodles and glue.

To determine which bridge was strongest, water was poured into a bucket suspended from each bridge. After the bridge failed, the bucket of water was weighed. All the bridges, which could not weigh more than 250 grams, proved to be quite sturdy. The winning bridge weighed only 240 grams, but supported a weight of more than 12 kg before it broke.

STEM Bridge

“I liked the bridge-building most,” said Alexander Noll, a graduate of Tomball High School who will major in bio-medical engineering. “It required us to apply what we learned for a purpose, not just for fun.

“We’re going to win,” he added confidently prior to the testing. His team did, and each member was rewarded with approximately $100 in school supplies.

Nava of and Teah Tirey of San Antonio won the student competition.

Faculty participants were Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Ryan Caesar, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Chris Distel, Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Susan Klinedinst, Professor of Physics Dr. Kim Arvidsson, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Adrian Zapata, Professor of Engineering Dr. Brian Bernard, Biology Laboratory Manager Lee Crain and Coordinator of the Center for Quantitative Literacy Tanya Jimenez.

The Summer Bridge Research Experience was funded from part of a U.S. Department of Education grant that Schreiner University received in 2016 to expand enrollment, retention and graduation of Hispanic and low-income students in STEM fields. Nearly 40 percent of Schreiner students are Hispanic.

The HSI-STEM program at Schreiner is directed by Rick Acevedo. For more information, contact him at 830-792-7415 or email