New Summer Camp Will Teach STEM Skills To Tampa Children

Only 16 percent of American high school seniors are competent in mathematics or interested in a career in fast-growing STEM fields, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

Adventures in Engineering, a Tampa Bay area nonprofit, hopes to change that statistic locally and will sponsor a STEM-centered summer camp in July and August 2014 that is now open for registration.

The camp aims to further Adventures in Engineering's goal: helping children seek out and develop skill sets that might not be reached in traditional educational settings.

Adventures In STEM Studies 

STEM subjects have become a priority in education as public and private sector jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math continue to rise. 

"Career fields exist now that weren't even heard of 10 years ago,'' explains Adventures in Engineering co-founder Mary Saville. "STEM camps anticipate the changing world by helping campers to do more than master a static set of concepts.''

Rather than concentrating on one area of aptitude, STEM camps like this one have a different end goal in mind: a philosophy of engaging students through hands on, project-based lessons.

This summer, kids will focus on "dynamic problem solving and learning how things work, so that any new concept or field can be entered with confidence,'' Saville says.

Campers can expect to invent things, learn about engineering and technology, gain design and technical skills, stimulate their appetites for learning, and find out about future career options. Kids will learn about programming skills using beginning tools like Scratch from MIT. Some participants may even be familiar with the language already.

Above all, the camp will "encourage self-discovery by showing campers that they are all inventors,'' says Saville. "When students are having fun, they are learning at their best.''

Adventures In Engineering

Adventures in Engineering, a  Tampa-based startup, is not-for-profit and "largely self-funded'' to date, with Health Map Solutions of Tampa providing primary sponsorship.   

Throughout the school year, Adventures in Engineering offers after-school enrichment programs for grades K-12 and engages in community outreach. Projected future services include online lesson plans to facilitate teachers in discussing engineering, along with engineering education kits that come complete with non-perishable materials and detailed instructions.

Saville encourages corporate and individual sponsors to donate resources and help AIE fund higher-ticket items, like 3-dimensional printers and laptops. If you are interested in donating to Adventures in Engineering, visit their Wish List.
AIE has the capacity to teach 60 students a week.  

Saville and co-founder Leslie Wall founded Adventures in Engineering to further a mission "to introduce young students to Engineering concepts, applications, and career paths in an exciting and accessible way.''

Both Saville and Wall have experience creating STEM curriculum in educational settings, but this is their first summer camp venture.

Wall, who holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, began her career in chemicals manufacturing before transitioning into IT as a process consultant for Fortune 500 companies like DuPont, International Paper and AstraZeneca. She also taught STEM as an experienced volunteer at the Great American Teach-In in Tampa.

Saville, who graduated with honors from the University of Virginia in Chemical Engineering, worked in engineering, consulting, and as a high school math and science teacher for several years before designing her own curriculum for new STEM classes. She then began private tutoring for individuals and educational nonprofits in central Virginia, where she ran Introduction to Engineering and other STEM courses for more than four years. 

Facilitating Students To Learn From Each Other 

STEM camps allow students of different ages, physical sizes, and capabilities to participate in projects as equals and learn from each other.

"In a sports camp, first graders may be at a disadvantage to older students because of size or agility. At STEM camps, a first and a third grader may be in the same team, group where success depends on each member's contribution, so they are equals and learn from each other,'' Saville explains.

The AIE summer camp is co-educational, so both boys and girls who have completed grades K-8 are encouraged to attend. Older students who have completed grades 9-12 can apply to participate in the camp as volunteer counselors.

"We will teach brainstorming and facilitate student-led groups as they complete technical and engineering challenges,'' says Saville. 

The Adventures in Engineering Summer Camp will be held Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 14-Aug. 8, at Westtown Church, 13521 Racetrack Road, Tampa. The camp, including the cost of materials, is $150 per week. Multi-sibling and multi-week discounts are available. Students must bring their own snack and lunch. 

Justine Benstead is a freelance writer who spends her days walking her dog Chloe in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting, and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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