Two Kenai Peninsula students study STEM in Anchorage

School may be out, but middle schoolers Olivia Reger of Cooper Landing and Blaine Hayes of Soldotna used some of their summer days in June to take part in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program’s (ANSEP) STEM Career Exploration component at the University of Alaska Anchorage.


The program brought together 51 middle school students from across the state for a five day immersion into the life of a college STEM student, studying the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) career field.

“It was pretty fun,” Hayes said. “We got to actually build a UAV drone and fly it and compete with it….First we learned how to solder and then we soldered the drone together.”

The program was organized by ANSEP and led by UAV industry professionals with a partnership from K2 Dronotics of Anchorage.

For both Reger and Hayes, it wasn’t their first time involved in an ANSEP program.

“The first time I went, we built bridges and computers,” Reger said. “This year, to build the drone from the start they taught us and gave us examples of the things we needed to know how to do, but they lets us figure everything out ourselves.”

ANSEP is part of the University of Alaska system and works towards bringing systematic change in the hiring patterns of Alaska Natives in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics career fields. To be eligible for the five day program, Alaska Native students must have previously completed the ANSEP Middle School Academy and maintain a certain grade point average and be on track to complete algebra 1 before high school

“Our ultimate goal at ANSEP is to grow Alaska’s future leaders,” ANSEP under Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder said in a release. “And we’re always looking for innovaative ways to inspire young Alaskans to pursue science and engineering degrees.”

Of the 51 students in attendance, 14 different Alaska communities were represented including Soldtona and Cooper Landing.

“The UAV activity allows ANSEP students to get hands-on engineering experience while learning about a developing industry,” Schroeder said.

In addition to the technical knowledge, the students had to opportunity to see what life after high school could be like.

“You get to live on campus and learn a lot about college,” Hayes said. “You learn about how college kids live, their courses… how it all works.”

Hayes said that he “really likes science,” and hopes to continue to learn about “how stuff works and making different machines to make stuff easier.”

Reger also wants to continue to study in the STEM field.

“I’m probably going to work in science somehow,” she said. “Maybe like a marine biologist, an archaeologist or anthropologist.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at