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Like its students, Camp STEM reaches its teens

WVU Tech’s longest-running summer camp program has turned 13. Camp STEM is designed to introduce high school boys and girls to concepts and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The weeklong, overnight camp returned this year with another chance for students in the Mountain State to explore STEM.

Students examine animal specimens in the biology class.

“There’s a different balance in the camp this year,” said Dr. Kimberlyn Gray, a professor in the WVU Tech chemical engineering department and organizer of the camp.

“We have added a second math class. We've also added more science classes. I think we were very engineering heavy before and now it's a very good mix of STEM fields,” she said.

That mix included lots of fun activities. Students learned how to program robots. They tossed racquet balls from a four-story window in the name of math. They learned about wind tunnels and the fact that there are more species of beetle than all vertebrate animals combined. They heard from engineers and physicians. They investigated mock crime scenes, built hydraulic water pumps and constructed elaborate Rube Goldberg devices.

For students like Katherine Brady of Berkeley County, West Virginia, the camp is a great way to explore new things. Her favorite portion of the week was the animation class. 

"We had a lot of creative freedom and we were allowed to make what we wanted," she said.

This wasn’t Brady’s first time at Camp STEM, and she said it’s that sense of exploration that draws her back.

"I'm a big nerd," she joked. "And my older sister went here and she loved it. Since we had similar interests, she thought I'd like it to. I always have a great time and I love learning about new things, plus I always meet new people.”

Tenth-grader David Shumate is from Ghent, West Virginia. He said his math teacher and his parents encouraged him to attend.

"I want to become an engineer. Everything about it is really interesting and I want to get into engineering design," he said.

A camp STEM student uses a total station during the civil engineering class.

Shumate was surprised by the sheer variety in the camp’s curriculum.

"It just kind of helps you think about career paths. You get to test the field out a little and you can see what's going on to see if you're interested in it,” he said.

“We're trying to give them a pretty balanced idea about STEM,” said Gray.

She said that classes covered specific disciplines while the students’ projects covered things like the concept of design, process design and the types of jobs people do regardless of discipline.

“Hopefully they're getting the idea that a lot of this stuff overlaps, so there's more than one path to different areas,” she said.

For parents, that’s a big selling point for the camp.

Jamie Flint owns a construction company in Braxton County, West Virginia. His son Jessie attended the camp.

“He's got to experience so many different things here that he probably wouldn't have experienced in a lifetime unless he went into that specific field. He got a crash course in a lot of fields this week,” he said.

Flint said Jessie would text and Facetime with his parents every night to tell them about his adventures.

“It was awesome,” said Jamie. “I have a college degree and I can tell you I didn't get to do a lot of the stuff he experienced this week. And this opens his eyes to what is available out there. This shows him there are so many possibilities. It's been a great experience.”

View photos from this year’s camp on Flickr.