Camps get a grip on technology

Published 9:24 pm Monday, July 11, 2011

Dixie Cox, 13, tries to pick up a pen using a hydraulically powered robotic arm Monday at the STEM summer camp at King’s Fork Middle School. Cox will get to build her own robotic arm next week. King’s Fork Middle is hosting two camps over the next two weeks that focus on science, technology, engineering and science topics.

When King’s Fork Middle School teacher Deb Shapiro developed technology summer camps, she wanted to infuse essential education with fun, interactive projects.

This combination resulted in two summer camps, sponsored by Suffolk Public Schools, that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects.

Shapiro said she wanted the camps to help students continue their education during the summer.

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“Education is lifelong,” she said. “You don’t stop learning because you aren’t going to school.”

The camps, which are new this year, are geared toward older elementary and middle school students and take place over the next two weeks.

The first camp, called Take Flight with STEM, started Monday and features activities based on flight, such as paper airplane building, hot air balloon construction and kite engineering.

The second camp, called Get a Grip on STEM with Robotics, starts July 18 and will require the students build robotic arms that can grip and pick up small objects.

Shapiro said she chose those themes because they are popular with the technology students at King’s Fork Middle.

Shapiro said she thinks math and science are important for all students, and in order for students to embrace it, she wants to show them how the subject can be applied in real life.

“It can be fun, but it’s useful,” she said. “It gives them a reason to study things that they are learning.”

She said in each day’s activity, the students must learn and apply STEM concepts in order to be successful.

For example, when a student’s paper airplane crashes straight to the ground, he or she must use what they learned about flight to figure out what they have to do to fix the problem.

She said she also hopes the camps will expose the students to science and math career opportunities.

Brandon Braud, 11, said his love for engineering is the reason he signed up for both camps.

“I like being able to create with (engineering),” he said. “It makes me feel like I can do what I want to do.”

Braud said math is one of his favorite subjects in school, and he wants to be a mechanical engineer when he grows up.

Like Braud, Donte White, 11, is participating in both camps because he loves to figure out how things work.

“I like seeing if it works, and if it doesn’t work, I like taking it apart to see why,” he said.

White said he is most excited about constructing and flying hot air balloons made of tissue paper.

Shapiro said she hopes the students can have a good time at the camps while learning in the process.

“You don’t have to spend your summer saying ‘no’ to school,” she said. “Education isn’t just something you have to do; it can be fun.”