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STEM summer camps for kids

UNT RoboCamp - kids with robot SumoBot

Pictured above and below: Students engaging with various robotics and technologies at UNT’s summer RoboCamp.

For those who agree that students need to get involved and invested in STEM early, the University of North Texas Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s long-running Engineering Summer Camps  offer an interesting model for success.  These summer camps are hands-on and immersive, but still offer the fun associated with a camp-like atmosphere.  Students engage in a variety of activities and competitions, learn tools and create work that they can take home after camp, and hear about STEM opportunities for education and work from university and industry leaders.

This summer’s camps benefit from financial support from the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) and from the Texas Workforce Commission.   Almost all of the students will receive some sort of scholarship to help pay for the tuition costs.

More camps, more robots

UNT RoboCamp - kids at computers

The program is a big success, as proven by its rapid growth.  What started in 2005 with a single camp has expanded to eight camps at three locations (UNT in Denton, Texas; Cisco’s campus in Richardson, Texas; Collin College’s Preston Ridge campus in Frisco, Texas) covering three topics (robotics, game development, mobile app development).

This is the inaugural year for the Android AppCamp, which will be held at Collin College the same week as the National CTC’s Working Connections faculty training event.  Running the programs at the same time will hopefully allow for some unique cross-pollination between the groups: teenagers get a look at cutting-edge topics of their future college classes, instructors see what the next generation of students can already accomplish.

Bringing women into STEM

Many of the camps are offered in a co-ed format, but UNT offers some camps, particularly the Robocamp and AppCamp, specifically for young women, an underrepresented group in Computer Science and Engineering.  We asked David Keathly, director of the camps, why they were designed that way.

He explained that offering camps that admit only young women “provides an environment in which women can explore technology at their own pace and without gender stereotypes.”  In addition, he points out that UNT tailors some of the “speaker programs to specifically address the interests and concerns of young women considering STEM educational and career pathways.”

UNT RoboCamp - girl campersUNT RoboCamp - girls with robot at computers

Want to host your own?

Summer camps like these are becoming more and more common as schools realize how effective they are at introducing younger students to STEM concepts.  The demand for this sort of program, in fact, may be reaching a tipping point.  The National CTC has been considering whether to offer a track at some future event that focuses on the practical strategies required to host a successful camp event like this one.

Visit the RoboCamp website to learn more about this program or to sign up a camper.

What experiences would you like to share about summer camps for younger STEM students?

UNT RoboCamp - SumoBot

Above: Parallax’s “SumoBot,” the campers’ mechanical pupil at UNT’s RoboCamps.


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