At camp, kids are the scientists
Ryan Summerlin June 24, 2012
Three boys huddled around a set of Legos at Dillon Valley Elementary Thursday afternoon, playing with what at a quick first glance, is a pretty impressive re-creation of a soccer game. But after a longer look, one realizes the Legos actually move and make sounds – the kicker kicks, the goalie tries to block and a crowd actually cheers. The children are the ones controlling the Lego robots they built, through small laptops hooked-up nearby.
There’s a motion sensor that detects the ball going through the goal, which sets the crowd off, explained Summit County student Eduardo Robles, who will be entering the sixth grade next year. He was working the computer hooked up to the “crowd” on Thursday, and said it was fun to build everything – the only hard part was making sure all the respective computers and robots worked together well.
The boys were just a few from a group of elementary students from all over Summit County gathered at DVE for the fourth day of the first-ever free science, technology, engineering and math summer camp in Summit County, led by DVE science teacher – and scientist by training – Karl Topper. Topper was able to organize last week’s camp, and one this week for girls, through grants. For both events, there were more people wanting to get in than there was room for, he said.
The reasoning behind the camps creation is to get the students introduced with one-another – there are kids from every elementary in Summit attending, Topper said – and of course, “really getting them engaged, excited and involved in authentic STEM experiences,” Topper said. “To me, it’s good science practice.”
Many children don’t get to actually see the connection between math and science in their regular studies, Topper said, and especially don’t get to see it in action, like with the rockets the STEM campers were propelling across the DVE field later Thursday afternoon (students measured the distance and trajectory, and saw how variables like wind affected the rockets). And, the kids have to work with each other, and well, in order to make projects like the soccer game successful. The level of cooperation has been impressive, Topper said.
On Thursday, students Julia Whinston and Nicole Kimball worked together to build a robot that spun a top. The motor turned a gear, which in turn spun another, and so on, until the attached toy spun, Whinston explained. They played with their newly built robot shortly before coming up with ways to alter the top’s speed.
“It’s amazing when you see (the children),” Topper said. “They’re so engaged in this.”
Student Fernanda Payan, 10-years-old, likes the camp because of the fun activities. She enjoys building the Lego robots and using the computers, she said.
“I learned that a lot of scientists have a goal, and they check it and make sure it works,” she said.