Oakland University is helping to spark excitement about all things STEM at a Utica Community Schools camp this summer.
OU is coordinating summer program at Velocity Jr. that focuses on activities promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The goal of the course is "to introduce kids to all basic disciplines of engineering through hands-on experience," said Dr. Chris J. Kobus, Director of Engineering and Energy Education at Oakland University. "We are trying to encourage kids to consider STEM fields, especially engineering where we cannot graduate enough engineers to fill the demand."
And if Beck Elementary fifth-grade Brendan Sanderson is any indication, the camp was a success on all levels.
"I am having fun because I really like science," Sanderson said. "I want to go into engineering. My dad is an engineer and I plan to follow in his footsteps."
Students in the camp - offered to students in grades 4 through 9 - are exposed to basic scientific principles and phenomena in the major disciplines: mechanical engineering (energy and structures), electrical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, computer engineering and computer science.
Students are finding unique ways to learn more about the sciences, including building light bulbs with mason jars and pencil leads akin to the early experiments of Thomas Edison.
Other activities include using lemons as an energy source to spark light bulbs, levitating pencils using magnetic fields, experimenting with a variety of conductors from pure and salty water to hot dogs.
And the fun doesn't end there. Students made an electric motor out of copper wire, programmed Lego robots to seek out and travel along a specified path, measured the energy content of snacks by building their own calorimeter, constructed and ran steam engines, built structures to keep eggs from breaking upon impact, constructed and tested a catapult, constructed and tested a model deep-sea oil exploration platform, learned about and constructed a computer from the ground up, experimented with process optimization in construction of toy cars, and built bridges to withstand great loads.
"Inspiration through hands-on education will help the kids see that STEM fields are fun, interesting, and can be part of their future," Dr. Kobus said. "By learning the fundamentals of science, this camp will hopefully feed their desire to do better in STEM subjects during the school year, and open their minds to the possibilities of what they can do as far as career choices go."
For Oakland University, the camp also helps fill a need for highly qualified engineers.
"As a university Professor, I believe that we cannot simply stay on campus and just train those students that happen to register with us," Dr. Copus said. "We need to partner with K-12 and give those kids access to faculty, students, staff and resources that we have; to inspire them and give them the opportunity to consider a STEM career in their future. By opening their eyes to the possibilities that such careers can be fun for them, we are hoping to play our part in filling the critical job need in our economy. Higher education partnering with K-12 can only be a value added to the student, and it is for the student that we focus our efforts."
For registration information, please call 586-797-6900.