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STEM Initiatives

The University of Tulsa’s various STEM pursuits are coalescing into an institutional culture of STEM inclusivity. Below are some of the outreach initiatives that we host or participate in to grow science, technology, engineering and math initiatives in the community. Periodically, teachers from local middle and high schools are included to both learn from the activities we present and to act as additional mentors to the participants.

Often, participants have subsequently enrolled at TU in the ENS college.  Many participants have commented on how helpful these programs are at giving them more direction in their path of study in high school.

For some of the older programs, there is a focus on professional skills such as ethics, responsibilities of an engineer and communication.

Your support will enable us to provide these and more activities to inspire many young learners.


Brownie Day – TU’s Keplinger Hall is opened up on a Saturday twice a year and converted into a dozen stations run by TU students featuring hands-on experiences for Brownie troops. They are able to build circuits, run remote controlled cars, experience gravity, static electricity, liquid nitrogen and many other science-related activities. Some items can be taken home. Organized by the student IEEE group. Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Engineering Physics are among the regular presenters at the event.

Tulsa Engineering Challenge – Engineering design competitions and exhibits for 4th grades at the Tulsa Tech Riverside Campus.

Computer Science – Cyber aliens computer games

Earth Day – Hundreds of children in Kindergarten through second-grade from multiple Tulsa Public Schools attended the second-annual “Earth Day: Celebrate CommUNITY” event. About 30 organizations set up booths and stations throughout Veteran’s park that featured activities to help students learn about concepts such as sustainability and recycling. At the University of Tulsa booth, students received a pinwheel after learning about wind turbines. The event was led by the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and TPS’ Lee Elementary. This year, the 3rd Annual Earth Day: Celebrate CommUNITY event was held on the TU campus at Harwell Field with multiple booths and student volunteers working on the event. This is a collaboration effort with True Blue Neighbors.

Chemical Engineering – A group of undergraduate students working on an EPA project gave a water conservation/awareness presentation to the elementary students at Kendall-Whittier.

Computer Science and Music – The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra gained two new games for their young learners.

  • Instrumatch – a web based picture and sound game to teach children their wind, percussion, brass and wood instruments.
  • Puzzical – a puzzle game that challenges a player to put a song together using the music score and the accompanying note sounds.

Intermediate and Middle School

Tulsa Girls’ Math Circle is for girls in grades 6-8.  Meetings are held on Tuesday evenings from 6:00-8:00 pm on the University of Tulsa campus, in 6-week quarters throughout the school year.  The math circle provides an opportunity for girls who are curious and enjoy mathematics to come together to work on challenging mathematical problems not seen in the usual school curriculum.  Mentors are drawn from the TU mathematics faculty and students.  The circle is free and open to girls who pre-register (

Tech Trek Tulsa – a week-long, residential science and math camp in June for girls entering 8th grade. Included are a good breadth of activities that include lab work, computer work, math exercises, group challenges and more. Schools are asked to refer girls who have good STEM potential, but don’t necessarily have a lot of exposure or access to opportunities. TU partners with AAUW and the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance on this project.

STEM Exploratorium -hosted by the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance — features around 30 businesses and organizations that present hands-on, interactive activities to expose students to local careers involving STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. The University of Tulsa College of Engineering had a booth where students got to play with a kit called Little Bits, which teaches about circuits. Students also had the chance to design and build a fishing rod device out of a stick of wood, string, and plastic silverware and try to fish a small plastic ball out of a pit.

Sonia Kovalevsky Day – An all-day math event at TCC NE campus for middle and high school girls. The event is intended to inspire young girls to pursue math education and empower the next generation of female mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and innovators. In conjunction with the event is a special professional development for Tulsa math educators.

The Julia Robinson Math Festivals inspire students to explore the richness and beauty of mathematics through activities that encourage collaborative, creative problem-solving. The event’s non-competitive atmosphere offers an alternate setting for students to explore the beauty and power of mathematics with encouragement and guidance from mathematicians.  Joshua Zucker, the Mathematics Director for the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festivals, says of the festivals, “We offer intriguing and challenging problems, puzzles, and activities, and a supportive setting for kids who like to take their time working on a problem. Students make whatever progress they make, they get help, they work with other kids, and eventually come to some kind of stopping point and go find another activity of interest.”

National Engineers Week – The purpose is to encourage pre-collegiates to choose engineering and change the world. Components are: help boys and girls discover engineering, celebrate engineering and nominate an inspiring educator.  TU hosts an open house for middle schoolers in February (traditionally 21st-27th). The departments and student organizations of engineering and natural sciences provide hands-on activities for the students to explore and learn. These activities require replenishment of supplies and also items that are given to the students for promotional purposes.

Digital Economy Simulation – multi-player game for 5th-8th graders teaching math, business and cyber-safety.

Computer Science and Math – Ciphers and Codes Summer Camp – Weeklong day camp for 6th – 9th graders in July at the University School focusing on the mathematics and technology of ciphers, code making and code breaking.  Cyber security and computer crime are also explored.

Computer Science – plans are underway to coordinate a summer STEM program in “Cyber Discovery and Creation” with the University School.  This will be a 2-3 day immersive experience for 5th-8th graders that exposes them to the potential application of computers and information technologies in science, engineering, the arts and the humanities.  The STEM program will build upon the strengths of the USCC program as well as the diverse skills and interests of faculty at The University of Tulsa.  The program will emphasize the role of computers as tools for inquiry and artistic expression.

Robotics – TU hosts the Oklahoma Regional FIRST Lego League competition in November where teams of 9-14 year-olds compete in a qualifying round and hope to continue on to nationals.

SHPE (Society Hispanic Professional Engineers) plans to organize a local Night of Science event for the nearby San Miguel middle school, aimed to influence students into STEM careers.

High School

TURC, Jr. This innovative program enables high school juniors and seniors to take challenging courses and conduct advanced research with the guidance of top TU professors. Its aim is to create leaders in scholarship, research and public life. Specifically, the program emphasizes research and community involvement.

Stem Fair – High school minority students and their parents spend a day on the TU campus in December learning about opportunities in STEM fields, touring the campus and visiting with various TU organizations. Speakers address the topics of students facing challenges and reaching their full potential in STEM fields.

Computer Science and Math – Ciphers and Codes Summer Academy – a weeklong commuter academy in June for 11th & 12th graders focusing on the mathematics and technology of ciphers, code making and code breaking.  Cyber security and computer crime are also explored.

Discover Week – A fun week of discovery of science and engineering for High School Juniors who are interested in the STEM fields.

Summer Bridge – A residential program designed to prepare entering TU freshman students for success in the STEM fields.

Physics – The Wonderful World of Physics Shows held at high schools.

Physics – The Physics Journal Club is held every 2nd Tuesday evening during the semester & has been going for 19 years. This lively discussion attracts between 140 & 170 (mostly) high school students per meeting.

Robotics – TU students mentor Booker T. Washington High School students for FIRST robotics projects.
Tulsa Time Engineering – Bring about 70 students in from high schools to stay the night.
NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) – Their plans include starting a JrNSBE chapter for the Tulsa area high school students, based at TU, to promote careers in STEM fields, especially in engineering where they plan to serve as role models.

Various Age Groups

Engineering Summer Academy – This one-week commuter academy at TU in June for rising 8th-11th graders allows students to experience electrical and mechanical engineering through hands-on design projects including building circuit boards, building a sensor system, design challenges, mechanical design of a line-follower vehicle, and troubleshooting.  Students get to take home some of what they build and continue working with it and the faculty throughout the year. There are also seminars, industry professional interaction and an integrated project constructing an autonomous line following robot. Lead by Dr. Peter LoPresti.

The FIRST summer academy
 League Global Innovation competition is designed to encourage and assist First Lego League teams to further develop their innovative solutions to real-world problems.  Teams are nominated regionally to participate in the annual Award competition. TU hosts the regional event.

For the camps, students from previous summers return as helpers and mentors. Often, the students are more comfortable asking questions of people closer to their age (more of a peer relationship) than the faculty. Students develop presentations about their experiences throughout the week and give these presentations to their parents and friends at a final banquet on Friday afternoon. Sponsorships are primarily funded through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education with assistance from the ECE and ME departments.

Heartland Gaming – The University of Tulsa will host the fourth annual expo in the spring with student-focused competitions. Game Showcase – providing an excellent opportunity for student teams to demonstrate their knowledge in game or game modification, software development, graphic design, creative writing and music and sound engineering.  Student artists showcase their game-related artistic talents in sketch art, paintings, computer graphics, animations, sound effects, musical compositions, game designs and critical game analysis in a gallery-like environment.  The 24-Hour Code Jam places teams in a high-pressure, time-constrained development situation where proper coordination and communication are essential in order to succeed.   The expo also offers a free-play arcade, a game and card tournament with cash prizes, exhibitors, door prizes, and a number of talks and tutorials.  The 2015 speakers included an Academy Award winning game composer, two developers with multiple AAA game credits and the lead developer of the largest crowd-funded project in history, Star Citizen. The public is invited to attend, and many high-schoolers come out. Attendance for 2015 was over 1,000.

The Oklahoma STEM competition – This two-day summer-time competition is being conducted state-wide. Students stay on a participating college campus of their choice and compete in STEM events against 270 students. Top students are invited to the top 10 Challenge at TU on July 23rd.

Technology Education and Collaborative (TEC) Summer Academy – This residential summer academy is for rising 8th & 9th grade students, who will focus on activities integrating GPS with GIS software. Students will use handheld GPS receivers for data collection on campus and during a field trip and then process the data to create interactive GIS maps. Students work individually and in groups with personal computers with presentation software such as PowerPoint and Comic Life, and math and science software for games and fun. Students use digital cameras and camcorders, download data sets from the Internet, participate in chat rooms, use innovative software, and participate in GPS scavenger hunts and geocaches.

Teacher Professional Development

Native American STEM Competition and Teacher Conference at the University of Tulsa
Oklahoma Teacher Induction Program – Three year grant to mentor new STEM teachers. TU is the lead higher education partner with K12 partners Osage County Interlocal Cooperative (12 rural school districts), TPS, Union, Jenks and Holland Hall.

Two, full-day “Teacher Enrichment” events are held on campus in collaboration with True Blue Neighbors. These serve as STEM professional development for 4th-6th grade science and math teachers from the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood. Visiting teachers spent the days in lecture and labs, and created lesson plans that they could take back and utilize in their classrooms. Professor’s Jerry McCoy, Bill Coberly and John Hale (as well as retired Prof. Bob Howard) assist.

The Tulsa Math Teachers’ Circle (TMTC)- The Tulsa Math Teachers’ Circle meets on the first Thursday of selected months during the academic year from 6-8 P.M.  After a light meal, a topic in mathematics is presented by a Math Facilitator (from out-of-town or TU) who guides the group rather than lectures to the group.  Problems are open-ended and can be approached on many different levels. We work in groups with middle school/high school teachers and TU faculty working together to solve a problem that no one has seen before  There is no cost to attend and Mathematics Educators and Professionals at all levels are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Tulsa Math Teachers’ Circle Summer Immersion Workshop
TU hosts a summer immersion workshop for 30 area middle school teachers.


The University of Tulsa partners with many organizations to bring STEM opportunities to the forefront.

iSEC – David Greer, Computer Science
Oklahoma Innovation Institute  – David Greer, Computer Science.

Oklahoma Science and Engineering Foundation (OKSEF) – provides administration of the Oklahoma Regional and FIRST robotics competitions.

The Little Lighthouse – Make a Difference Engineering (M.A.D.E.) at TU does an annual project with The Little Lighthouse. The help build adaptive technology, or custom toys for children with physical and developmental disabilities.

True Blue Neighbors

  • TU Computer Science student, Katie Clary, leads a weekly Cyber Club at Kendall-Whittier Elementary, for twenty 5th and 6th grade students enrolled in the True Blue Neighbors Youth Mentoring Program.
  • TU ENS students volunteer as mentors in the “Me and My Math Mentor” for before and after school enrichment at Kendall-Whitter Elementary, in partnership with the Tulsa Regional Stem Alliance
  • Chemistry Professor, Gabriel LeBlanc is working with Rogers College High School on an ACS Coaching Grant, which pairs a high school science teacher with a higher education faculty for mentoring and collaboration opportunities.

Tulsa Regional Stem Alliance

  • TU has a booth at the State Fair in the fall. We were part of a TRSA delegation that was recognized at the Governor’s STEM summit by Governor Fallin with a citation stating that Tulsa is Oklahoma’s first STEM community.
  • STEM Alliance Summer Academy — 1 day each summer, for the past 2 years (this summer will be the 3rd year).
  • Seaperch Workshop — Building an underwater robot. This program is sponsored by Tulsa STEM Alliance, USNA, and NOAA.  Occurs periodically — three workshops sponsored at TU since 2012.

Tulsa Research Partners – TU is hosting the Tulsa Research Day that will feature a new program called Tulsa Research Kids in November on the OU-Tulsa Campus at the Schusterman Center.

Women in Science Conference – TU had a booth at this conference at ORU in the fall.