STEM Initiatives - The University of Tulsa
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STEM Initiatives

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. The event is organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers student 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 students age fourth grade through high school at the Tulsa Tech Riverside Campus.

Computer Science – Cyber aliens computer games

Earth Day  “Earth Day: Celebrate CommUNITY” event. About 30 organizations set up booths and stations on TU’s campus to feature activities that help students learn about concepts such as sustainability and recycling. The event is led by the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and TPS’ Lee Elementary. This is a collaborative effort with TU’s True Blue Neighbors initiative.

Computer Science and Music – Students designed two new digital games for young learners at the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra.
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.

Petroleum Engineering – The student chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers partners with the Tulsa STEM Regional Alliance to organize interactive science-based oil and gas lab experiments at local elementary schools. Middle and elementary schools visit the TU campus to engage with students and learn about petroleum engineering.

“Digging Deeper” – program involving SPE members visiting elementary and middle school classrooms to teach students about the oil and gas industry. The curriculum is provided by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board and Petro Pros program.

TU’s computer gaming and early education course partners with the Tulsa Coding Club to provide game design and development activities for elementary students in local Title I schools.

Monthly STEM programming – WomENS has created a monthly program for students at Emerson Elementary to participate in STEM activities. This initiative introduces students to all aspects of engineering and natural sciences.

Regional Kite Festival – May 3, 2019

Council Oak Elementary visit – In November 2019, Associate Professor Akhtar Ali and his graduate students hosted a group of second graders from Council Oak Elementary to tour his laboratory and learn about scanning electron microscopy and other research techniques.

Intermediate and Middle School

Tulsa Girls’ Math Circle – for girls in grades 6-9. Meetings are held on Tuesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. on the TU campus, in 6-week quarters throughout the school year. The math circle provides an opportunity for girls who enjoy mathematics to work on challenging mathematical problems not used in standard school curriculum. Mentors are 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. The event includes many activities such as lab work, computer work, math exercises, group challenges and more. Schools are asked to refer girls who have STEM potential but don’t necessarily have a lot of exposure or access to opportunities. TU partners with the American Association of University Women and the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance on this project.

Back to School STEM Expo – hosted by the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance and sponsored by Cox Media and Flight Night, the expo features around 30 businesses and organizations that present hands-on, interactive activities to expose students to local STEM careers. The University of Tulsa College of Engineering and Natural Sciences hosts a booth to teach students about circuits by playing with a kit called Little Bits. Students also design and build a fishing rod device out of a stick of wood, string and plastic silverware to try and fish a small plastic ball out of a pit.

Sonia Kovalevsky Day – March 8, 2019, an all-day math event 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. The event is held in conjunction with a special professional development seminar 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 noncompetitive atmosphere offers an alternate setting for students to explore the beauty and power of mathematics with encouragement and guidance from mathematicians. The event offers intriguing and challenging problems, puzzles and activities as well as a supportive setting for kids who like to take their time working on a problem.

National Engineers Week – encourages middle school students to choose engineering and change the world. Activities include helping boys and girls discover engineering, celebrating engineering and nominating an inspiring educator. TU hosts an open house for middle school students in February. The engineering and natural sciences departments and student organizations provide hands-on activities for students to explore and learn. These activities require replenishment of supplies and also items that are given to the students for promotional purposes. Local school STEM activities include

  • Science fair guest judges and speakers at local schools
  • Organize, design and present an invertebrate show-and-tell at the Gilcrease Museum Summer Art Camp
  • Bird netting for local Girl Scout troop
  • DNA extraction demonstration at local high schools
  • Physics balloon rocket activity at local middle schools
  • Pathfinder tour for Cub Scouts at Oxley Nature Center as a volunteer naturalist

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

Computer Science – plans are underway to coordinate a summer STEM program in “Cyber Discovery and Creation” with University School. This will be a two- three-day immersive experience for fifth-eighth 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 – hosted by the TU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as one of the Oklahoma Regional FIRST Lego League’s regional competitions in November where teams of 9- 14-year-old students compete in a qualifying round on the road 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 encourage students to pursue STEM careers.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) Boy Scouts of America – the only STEAM Post in the Tulsa area and aimed at introducing different engineering fields to elementary and high school students. Weekly activities, field trips, a “Maker Faire” and First Tech Challenge and Robotic Competitions are offered.

University School Computer Club – a STEM program open to middle school students attending the University School on The University of Tulsa’s campus. Students in the club, ranging from grades 5-8, meet twice a week – Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30-8:30 a.m. – to learn about computer programming and information technology. The club is supervised by faculty in the Tandy School of Computer Science and is led each year by an undergraduate in that program. Students in the class have used Scratch (, a visual programming framework designed for younger students to make animations and games. In the process, they learn about the logic and mechanics of software design. In year one, all the students used Scratch to develop their own game and present it to parents at an end-of-year open house.

Codes, Ciphers and Cyber Sleuthing Camp (2015-2016) – operated for middle school students at University School in collaboration with the Tandy School of Computer Science at The University of Tulsa. Students participate in the weeklong camp, which immerses them in the worlds of cryptology and computer security. Campers study, design and break codes and ciphers. In addition, they learn about the perils of life online and are exposed to cyber safety concepts, principals and techniques. Scholarships are made available to students from the Kendall-Whittier school district.

Merit Badge Fair – hosted 50 local Boy Scouts from Troop 26 for a merit badge fair in 2016.

Noche de Ciencias – an event organized by TU’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers to engage middle and high school students in hands-on STEM activities and encourage minority participation in the engineering fields.

High School

Society of Women Engineers STEM outreach at local high schools where TU students discuss their STEM majors and what they plan to do with their degrees in the future.

TURC Jr. – innovative program enabling 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 the fall learning about opportunities in STEM fields, touring the campus and visiting with TU organizations. Speakers address the challenges students face in reaching their full potential in STEM fields. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to attend. TU faculty and students host a tour of lab facilities. Science stations inform visitors about TU’s student organizations and honor societies related to STEM disciplines.

Discover Week – fun week of discovery in science and engineering for high school juniors who are interested in STEM fields.

Green Country Unmanned Aircraft System (drone) Competition – hosted by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering featuring an artificial drone contest. The event includes search-and-rescue missions and package delivery on the TU campus for college and high school students.

Oklahoma High-Performance Supercomputing Competition – hosted by the Tandy School of Computer Science challenging students from high schools, community colleges, technical schools and universities to learn about high-performance computing. Participants are given a computationally demanding problem to solve and a cluster (HPC) computer on which to solve it. High-performance computing is used in many fields including physics, geophysics, geology, petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, mathematics, chemistry, chemical engineering and biology. The competition is intended to inspire interest and enthusiasm in this emerging STEM field.

Capture the Flag – the Institute for Information Security (iSec) at TU annually hosts a Capture The Flag (CTF) competition that is open to high school students. Participants from around the world compete online to solve cyber puzzles and complete digital challenges. Special effort is made to recruit participants from Oklahoma high schools. As part of the recruiting effort, iSec invites K-12 student groups to attend a one-hour “Introduction to CTF” program.

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

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

Physics – a 20-year tradition, Physics Journal Club is held every second Tuesday evening during the semester. 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 – about 70 high school students stay overnight on the TU campus.

NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) – plans include establishing a Junior NSBE chapter for Tulsa area high school students to promote careers in STEM fields, especially in engineering where they plan to serve as role models.

University of Tulsa Summer Academy on Codes, Ciphers and Cyber Crime (2016) – Cyber security spans the disciplines of engineering, computer science, mathematics and law. Problem-solving and critical thinking skills wedded to a mastery of concepts and techniques in these areas are required for a successful career in this vibrant and growing field. The Summer Academy introduced 34 high school students (32 supported by the state of Oklahoma, 2 by The University of Tulsa) to the theory, science and practice of cyber security, challenging them to develop fundamental skills needed to pursue educational and professional pathways. Participants took home a specially equipped laptop to help them advance in self-directed study of the field.

Engineering Signing Day for high school seniors – Feb. 22, 2019

Various Age Groups

Hurricane Mathfest – an annual event in two parts: half day middle school girls competition and a half day high school coed competition, usually in February or March. Hurricane Mathfest is co-sponsored by the Society of Women’s Engineers, the Math Association of America student chapter at the TU Department of Mathematics.

Engineering Summer Academy – one-week commuter academy at TU in June for rising students in grades 8-11 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 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. The academy is facilitated by Dr. Peter LoPresti.

FIRST Summer Academy
League Global Innovation competition – 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 competition. TU hosts the regional event.
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.

The Computer Simulation and Gaming Conference (CSGC) brings together students, educators, professionals, and enthusiasts for two days of STEM learning, innovation, networking, and gaming. Attendees of all ages participate in inspiring talks, hands-on workshops and exhibits presented by industry leaders. CSGC focuses on research, production design, art, and new technologies, including virtual, augmented and mixed reality; all within the fields of computer animation, game design, simulation and visual effects.

CSGC also hosts the LARGEST GAME DEVELOPMENT COMPETITION IN THE CENTRAL UNITED STATES for students and indie professionals. Competition categories range from game development, game design, animation, digital art and simulations.

Hosted by the Tandy School of Computer Science and the TU Student SIGGRAPH chapter (Association of Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques), the CSGC event is free and open to the public. All attendees under the age of 13 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam event (game creation) taking place around the world at physical locations. In a time frame of just 48-hours, participants are challenged with forming a game development team, producing a game design pitch and developing a functional game by the end of the weekend. This event is hosted by the Tandy School of Computer Science along with the TU Student SIGGRAPH chapter (Association of Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) and is free and open to the public. All attendees under the age of 13 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Oklahoma STEM competition – two-day summer-time competition conducted statewide. Students stay on a participating college campus of their choice and compete in STEM events. Top students are invited to the top 10 Challenge at TU.

Technology Education and Collaborative (TEC) Summer Academy – residential summer academy for rising eighth- and ninth-grade students focusing on activities that integrate GPS with GIS software. Students 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.

Women in Science conference – for girls in middle school and high school. TU faculty volunteer at booths featuring chemistry, mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering.

Global Game Jam – participants age 18+ are challenged to build a functioning video game from scratch.

Green Country Unmanned Aircraft Competition – a package delivery drone contest open to high school and college teams in the region. Total scores are based on safety, time and teamwork.

The Solar and Alternative Technologies (SALT) research experience is a 10-week summer research program providing undergraduate students with the opportunity to research and develop exciting alternative energy technologies such as fuel, catalysts, power, energy reservoirs, clean water and plastics from renewable sources or using renewable energy, thereby reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Tulsa Regional Science and Engineering Fair – Feb. 14, 2019, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mabee Center, Tulsa

SeaPerch Challenge (building underwater robots) – Jan. 26, 2019

Cardboard and Duct Tape Boat Regatta – March 30, 2019

Girls Coding Camp – June 2019

Innovations Fair – November 2019 – K-12 students from Broken Arrow, Union, Tulsa Public Schools and Summit Christian Academy are mentored by representatives from TD Williamson, AAON, TU, Conder Business Solutions, Triumph and NSU. innovations fairThe students work on solving problems through identifying solutions, building prototypes, creating business plans, developing marketing strategies and presenting their startups to the entire group.

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.

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 spend the days in lectures and labs and create lesson plans they can take back and utilize in their classrooms. Professors Jerry McCoy, Bill Coberly and John Hale (as well as retired Professor Bob Howard) assist.

The Tulsa Math Teachers’ Circle (TMTC) – 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 local middle school teachers.

GenCyber Tulsa – TU hosts a week-long, teacher workshop for 24 teachers to address a critical shortage in cybersecurity professionals. The initiative is funded by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation. TU and TU’s Cyber Corps support the program. Sessions include critical infrastructure, the past and future of cybersecurity, career pathways in cybersecurity, cyber crime and cybersecurity in the financial industry.

STEM2 – a program created by TU chemistry and biochemistry students to foster the advancement and engagement of local students in STEM fields. The Student Team Engaging Minorities in STEM group visits many underprivileged schools, hosts speakers, performs science demonstrations and facilitates campus events to nurture intellectual stimulation. The activities help STEM2 members and the community better understand the importance of breaching cultural boundaries while encouraging students to get involved and excel with a college degree in STEM.

The National Science Foundation Drone Research Experience for High School Teachers (NSF RET) invites 10 Tulsa-area high school teachers to conduct research and curriculum development activities at the TU campus for six weeks during the summer. Teachers will work with TU faculty, industry mentors, graduate and undergraduate students from electrical, computer and mechanical engineering. The Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance will also facilitate 3 follow-up interactions a semester between teachers, mentors and STEM students, including an exciting quadcopter-based competition open to the teachers’ students.

SENSEsational Science event for high school teachers – June 2019

National Science Foundation Research Experience for High School Teachers (NSF RET) – June 2019

CyberCity teacher workshop

In the summer of 2020, TU will launch a new program to infuse cyber education into every school and eventually every classroom in Tulsa, energizing a generation of students to transform the city and its economy. During the first year of the CyberCity Initiative, teacher workshops will impart high-tech concepts through hands-on activities designed for middle school and elementary students.


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

Flight Night – Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance provides free kites to schools throughout the Tulsa area as a part of the Regional Kite Festival #PoweredbyFlightNight.

iSEC – the Institute for Information Security is a multi-disciplinary program of study and research tackling cybersecurity issues on a global scale.

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

The Little Lighthouse – Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU) is a service initiative inviting TU students to collaborate with local organizations to design and fabricate adaptive devices for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.

True Blue Neighbors – (2015-2016) undergraduate mathematics major Katie Clary developed and deployed a STEM program integrated into an after school program at Kendall Whittier Elementary School. Throughout the school year, Katie worked with students in the KW After School Program to teach computer technology, principles of cyber security and online safety. Katie has since earned her undergraduate degree and currently is pursuing a graduate degree in mathematics at TU.

  • TU engineering students volunteer for the “Me and My Math Mentor” program for before and after school enrichment at Kendall-Whitter Elementary, in partnership with the Tulsa Regional Stem Alliance
  • Chemistry Professor, Gabriel LeBlanc works with Will Rogers High School on an American Chemistry Society coaching grant, which pairs a high school science teacher with a higher education faculty member for mentoring and collaboration opportunities.

Tulsa Regional Stem Alliance

  • TU hosts a booth at the Tulsa State Fair in the fall and is part of a Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance delegation recognized at the Governor’s STEM Summit with a citation stating Tulsa is Oklahoma’s first STEM community.
  • STEM Alliance Summer Academy
  • Seaperch Workshop – building underwater robots. This program is sponsored by Tulsa STEM Alliance, USNA, and NOAA.

Tulsa Research Partners – TU hosts Tulsa Research Day featuring 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.