skip to Main Content

Texas STEAM Network to Empower Middle School Students

In this I[X] Team Spotlight, take a look at the team behind the research. Prof. LaFayette will share why this project is important to the community and how her team of students will contribute to the project. Discover what compelled the students to select this particular Innovation[X] project to work on, and what valuable skill sets and unique perspectives they bring to the project.

Screenshot of LaFayette team Zoom Meeting

Prof. LaFayette, as the project leader, tell us why this project is so important to the community?

“We aim to provide under-represented middle school students with an opportunity to imagine how art, math, science, and coding are a bridge to creating the fantastic environments they enjoy in video games and films. We’re creating a network engaging former students — African American, Latinx, and Hispanic professionals — from brand-name media-centered companies such as Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts BioWare, Gearbox Software, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation — with students, teachers, family members, and counselors in Texas middle schools. We host annual workshops to build interactive, digital worlds using real-time game engines, focusing on design thinking to inspire youth to learn math and coding skills. Undergraduate Texas A&M students will partner with middle school students, forming teams to scaffold learning from sketch to final project, using state-of-the-art digital tools. This project aims to empower Texas youth with greater confidence in STEAM skills, resulting in an increasing number of underrepresented youth pursuing higher education and career opportunities.”

What do you think your team of students can bring to this project?

“There are 3 skill areas TAMU students bring to the work: 1) Art and Design for digital world-building; 2) Digital production using 3D and procedural modeling; and 3) Research on learning with a focus on near peer mentoring. Together, we discuss topics such as cultural capital and art history of underrepresented ethnicities, social equity, and good practices in mentoring 5th-8th grade students. Our near peer TAMU mentors are building the curriculum together this fall, and in spring, we’ll be ready to engage middle school students in workshops.”

As students, what made you chose this particular Innovation[X] project?

“I wanted to make a difference to students who come from a similar background as me. These students may not know about the options they have in the STEAM industries, and I’m hoping this program will open their eyes to possibilities then may not have even known about.”

– Mariana Pedroza, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology Major


“I liked it’s close relation to the visualization department, since I had been wanting to transfer into it.”

– Peyton Turpin, General Studies Major


What part of the project will you be working on?

“I’m working in the lab and art sections. The lab section is focused on creating virtual characters and assets for the students to work with in the near future. We’ve been strengthening our skills in Houdini so that we can give the students a taste of procedural modeling next semester.”

– Mariana Pedroza, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology Major


“I am in the art/design and lab teams, and I am helping make assets for the project.”

– Peyton Turpin, General Studies Major

Back To Top