At Utica Community Schools’ Camp Invention, nearly 100 elementary students are utilizing recycled materials and earth-friendly ideas to navigate challenges
such as “Surviving on Planet ZAK,” “Saving Sludge City,” designing and building
“Balloon Burst” machines or devising non-traditional games.
Housed at the Rose Kidd Elementary building, Camp Invention is one of several week-long STEM (science,technology, engineering and mathematics) summer learning camps offered through Velocity Jr., the district’s unique educational partnership with Sterling Heights and the city’s Velocity Collaboration Center for business and manufacturing development. The camps are lead by UCS teachers and staff from area colleges and universities.
Fun and team-building are part of the equation as the children imagine, for example, crash landing on Planet Zak, then figuring out how they could survive the planet’s harsh conditions. They interpret weather data to design adequate shelter and clothing to ward off acid rain. They find and retrieve unusual food sources. They engineer how to reassemble their crashed space craft and launch it to escape. Science fiction plays a role as the children author a movie script based on their adventures.
In the Balloon Burst challenge, Rube Goldberg-type inventing takes the spotlight. Working in teams, the children first take apart old technology brought from home, such as computer hard drives, wireless phones and other gadgets, while learning proper tool use. They investigate how the gears, motors, magnets, springs and other parts work. Using this knowledge, they plan how to use the parts to build functioning machines that can (hopefully) burst water balloons.
Along the way, the children learn a bit about intellectual property, patents and
marketing. They practice the engineering process, retesting and making
adjustments to perfect their machines. For the oldest inventors (fifth and sixth
graders), the machines must consist of two items from each team member’s take
apart device, accomplish four separate actions and incorporate two simple
machines. Once a machine starts, it must complete the task without anyone
Each day marks a special theme: Group Color Day; Alien Day, when students dress like their favorite alien; Upcycle Day, when they wear something made with recycled items; Inventor Day for dressing as real-life inventor in history and Showcase Day, when families are invited in to see the children’s accomplishments.
Velocity Jr. is slated to offer more than 20 STEM-related camps running through August, including engineering and computer science, metal casting, VEX robotics, LEGO engineering, “Roamer the Robot,” TiViTz math, underwater robotics and electric vehicles – all in partnership with Western Michigan University, Lawrence Tech, Oakland University, Macomb Community College or the Center for Advance Automotive Technology.
To learn more, visit www.ucscommunityeducation.com
and click on the current Community Education catalog option, pages 22 and 23