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Students Calculate, Culture, Program, and Engineer Their Way into New Fields at Camp STEM 2015

Last week marked the eleventh year of WVU Tech’s popular Camp STEM summer program, which brought 45 high school students from throughout the state to the University’s Montgomery campus for a weeklong immersion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Campers engaged in interactive STEM-focused courses and activities where they learned about mathematics, biology, chemistry, engineering, computer science, forensic investigation, renewable energy and automobile technology. Students also worked in groups to build and operate LEGO robots and visited the ACE Adventure resort, where they explored ecology and hydrology while zip-lining and whitewater rafting.

Dr. Kimberlyn Gray, WVU Tech chemical engineering professor and director of Camp STEM, said the camp is so popular because students get to see firsthand how their aptitudes in STEM fields can be applied to a real career – and many Camp STEM students are uncovering areas of study they are instantly passionate about.

“Camp STEM is built to guide students to different fields in an introductory way, though we’ve seen that students are going beyond those introductions and truly immersing themselves in the courses they enjoy. We’re seeing students find something they’re interested in – like robotics, for instance – and really dig into it here,” she said.

“They won’t take no for an answer and when they try something in that field and fail, they’re coming back on their own time to try again. They take full advantage of the time they have at the camp to explore what they find fascinating. When they return home and start thinking about the courses they’ll take in school next year, they have that experience driving them to keep exploring,” she said.

Jacob Bedekovich, 14, is a tenth grader from Williamstown High School in Wood County, West Virginia.

He said he wants to go to college after high school, but that he isn’t sure what he wants to study. The Biology course at Camp STEM put the subject on the map for him.

“We learned how to grow bacteria and how to make them resistant to antibiotics – you can actually grow bacteria that can help people if they’re sick,” he said.

Macie Higginbotham, a 14-year-old ninth grader from Roane County High School, attended the camp’s courses in biology, chemical engineering, robotics and computer science. She said she was most excited to explore some of the science driving advances in the medical field where she ultimately wants to end up.

“I want to be in the health field. This camp isn’t for that specifically, but I know that everything I learn here is going to help me in the future. I wanted to get into radiology, but after this week, I’m really interested in biology and chemistry, too.”

Visiting students wrapped up the camp with a family picnic and the final robotics competition on Friday, June 26.

“It’s a great camp and what they teach us is really useful,” said Higginbotham. “I definitely want to come back next year.”

WVU Tech is grateful to the AEP Foundation, the ECA Foundation, Dow, Toyota and AT&T, who provided financial support and lent the camp their time and talents. Camp STEM’s sponsors ensure that students have access to the best activities possible and that students who can benefit most from the camp are able to attend.

ECA Manager of Corporate Affairs Jennifer Vieweg visited the camp on Tuesday, June 23, to see the camp’s courses in action.

“The ECA Foundation is committed to promoting youth and education. We especially like to support programs designed to improve high school graduation rates, encourage college and career readiness, and provide West Virginia with a well-educated and skilled workforce,” she shared.

“Camp STEM contributes to all of these critical areas; it is a proven program with a great track record that continues to grow year after year. Interesting, interactive and engaging activities, like Camp STEM, help keep kids interested in these important fields so they will be better prepared to fill jobs in the 21st century,” she said.

Check out local media coverage of the camp from WOAY and WCHS.

Visit WVU Tech on Flickr to see photos from Camp STEM 2015.