We partnered with the Science Mill (an interactive museum in Johnson City, Texas) to implement a five-day STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) camp in our Elimu Hub building. As part of our “Creating Techies” initiative, the five-day camp immersed our seventh-grade students in the world of technology and robotics with a fun approach by pretending to be “spies”. They created versatile gadgets, used chemistry to get out of sticky situations, and built robots to complete “missions”, all to understand that STEM can be fun.
Day One: Robotics and Owl-Inspired Technology
Students designed a simple robot using LEDs and servos (a device with a motor and a sensor to control objects) using basic computer science logic. This exposed them to computing and robotics principles while also improving their teamwork and understanding of robotics and computer science.
Dissecting owl pellets to learn about what owls eat, and the structure of rodent skeletons taught students a bit about zoology. Creating a tech creature out of craft materials, robotics, and circuitry kits brought their prototypes to life while learning about biometric designs and bioengineering careers.
Day Two: Secret Agent X, Bug-Inspired Biomimicry, and Secret Safe Box
On the second day, teams expanded their experience with robotics by exploring sensors, LED screen messages, and sound outputs to build a robotic “Secret Agent” pet. Students learnt about biomimicry, sketched, and then built a prototype that could be the next nanotech gadget that solves a real-world problem.
In the afternoon, teams delved into the world of cyber security and cryptography as they designed their secret safe box using light sensors, buzzers, and more code.
Day Three: Engineering an Escape, Covert Communications, Secret Spy Device, and Secret Rover Mission
Teams were introduced to engineering when they created a zipline carrier by exploring physics concepts such as gravity, friction, force, motion, trajectory, and slope. They worked as mechanical and civil engineers to apply physics, math, and budgeting concepts and grew their experience by using their designs. Just like master electricians, they created a functional circuit with a switch from circuitry kits. Using their engineering skills, they designed a communication device that uses light, sound, or motion to send code messages to “spy allies”.
Students were exposed to concepts regarding energy and climate change as they built an electric “spy” rover. They programmed a distance sensor and servos to traverse an obstacle course.
Day Four: Ice Cream Chemistry, Perfecting a Polymer, Chemical Detectives, and Rescue Rations
Students learned what it means to be a food chemist or process engineer by making silly putty and ice cream from a recipe. This helped them demonstrate how to get their “agents” out of a sticky situation. They were exposed to analytical chemistry and environmental engineering by solving the mystery of what’s contaminating the soil and designed solutions to combat the problem. As food scientists and chefs, they explored the world of molecular gastronomy to design unique edible beverage bottles.
Day Five: Career Adventure
Reflecting on their week of experiences, teams worked together to create detailed artwork/projects that symbolize various STEM career paths. Additionally, they engaged in peer interviews, and delved into conversations aimed at unlocking hidden potential within the realm of STEM.
As the students increased their understanding of STEM topics, they selected specific career fields within the STEM spectrum to explore further. The event concluded with a graduation ceremony, celebrating the participants’ successful completion of the STEM camp and the beginning of their journey towards understanding how STEM can fit in their lives. The camp unlocked hidden potential, inspired career choices, and equipped students with the skills needed to address complex real-world challenges.
This year was a pilot, which proved to be a resounding success, enjoyed by all. We will keep you updated as we seek grant funding to implement and expand this initiative.