Last Updated: 09/18/2013*

Teachers call it “summer brain drain” – that gradual decline in student proficiency during the lazy, hazy days of summer vacation. But in Hartford, Conn., educators are fighting back with a little help from Raytheon.

This summer more than 100 students guided virtual snowboards, operated a robotic arm and drove interplanetary rovers at the Connecticut Science Center as they learned about science, technology, engineering and math as part of the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program’s Summer Gaming Challenge.

Beating “Brain Drain:” Raytheon Helps Kids Shake Off Cobwebs for School
Balancing light and rotation, a CPEP student animates a column of static figurines.

“To see the students’ math growth, as an educator, has been so rewarding,” said Brian Gilbert, a teacher at Conte West Hills Magnet School in New Haven and a counselor for the program. “It’s great to see the educational possibilities and what kids are really capable of.”

Students often lose as much as two to three months of math and reading skills during the summer, with the losses more marked among lower-income children, according to the National Summer Learning Association. But those who attend the CPEP program actually improve their proficiency by an average of 35 percent, organizers say. The camp’s ability to accelerate academic achievement with exemplary programming earned it the 2013 New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award.

Raytheon participated by giving the students free admission to the science center, including MathAlive!

MathAlive! will be at the science center through Sept. 1. It features 40 activities, from a climbing wall to a music synthesizer, and has drawn thousands of museumgoers during previous stops in Houston, Phoenix, Huntsville, Ala. and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. 

Beating “Brain Drain:” Raytheon Helps Kids Shake Off Cobwebs for School

A student’s spatial skills are put to the test inside the MathAlive! exhibit

“The thing I love about math is that you can relate to it in real life,” one Hartford student said after touring the exhibit. “It’s unique, fun and hands-on.”

Students relied on skills learned in the classroom to solve the exhibit’s simulations, which ranged from guiding a Mars rover to launching a skateboarder over an alligator.

Beating “Brain Drain:” Raytheon Helps Kids Shake Off Cobwebs for School

CPEP students learn how arm length and height can impact a rock climber’s speed and technique when ascending a mountain

“[Math] has helped me a lot; it’s helped me figure things out in a faster way,” one student said.

MathAlive! is part of Raytheon’s MathMovesU program, which aims to help students from middle school through college remain interested in math and science – and by extension, inspire them to ascend to technology-related careers.

The goal: transform brain drain into brain gain.

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