Portland-area Latino students discover science through the magic of music

Mariachi STEAM Camp students rehearse in 2017.

Latino students are the largest minority group in the public school system and they score lower than national averages on math and science tests.

In Washington County, Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H invites students to participate in the Mariachi STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Camp to widen their knowledge and inspire them to continue their education. In two years, 49 under-served high school youth have attended the camp, a six-day residential program that combines the passion of music with the curiosity of science. Not only do the teens come away with new education, they also get a taste of the collegiate life during the on-campus event.

In one activity, students created a digital musical card from scratch by learning about and assembling the electronic components, digitizing and editing their music and transferring it to a sound module. In another, they prototyped a digital music player and learned to convert notes from their favorite Mariachi song to frequency. The week’s intense concentration on music culminates in an end-of-camp concert open to the public.

The Mariachi STEAM Camp acts as a conduit that provides access and awareness of STEAM fields to broaden participation of Hispanics along all segments of the science and engineering career pathway.

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