The NXT LEGO robot rolled forward, turned sharp left and – much to the horror of its creator – started veering off its intended course, crossing the line surrounding the designated checkpoint and eliciting a fresh wave of frustration.
“No!” exclaimed Rishi Alluri, throwing up his arms in defeat. Gathering his wayward robot, Rishi returned to a nearby computer for another round of programming. He’d consider if the degree of the turn was miscalculated, or if perhaps the distance was off by a fraction of an inch.
These are the type of questions Rishi and his classmates had to consider as they participated in the LEGO robotics class at the See Blue STEM Camp, which was held June 11-15 at the College of Education building on the campus of the University of Kentucky.
Rather than lay around all summer, Rishi and 69 other campers in 6-9th grade decided to challenge their brains with a week’s worth of learning in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The See Blue STEM Camp offered classes in engineering, math, neurobiology, astronomy and LEGO robotics.
To ensure that everyone received a balanced learning experience, all campers were required to take each of the classes.
The idea for a STEM camp arose from the mind of Dr. Craig Schroeder, who started the program in 2010 at Jessie Clark Middle School in Lexington with eight campers. That number increased threefold in 2011, and thanks to a grant from the Math Clinic at UK, the camp was able to open its doors to students from across the state and increase its enrollment to 70 this year.
“I want to get kids involved with activities they don’t think are STEM,” Schroeder said. “Students see math and science as just subjects in school. I want to give them activities at this young age where they can blossom and see things that they can do with their life.”
Given the response Schroeder saw when he opened the camp up to all of Kentucky, there’s a strong desire among young students to learn about STEM.
“We accepted 70 but we had 140 on our registration list,” Schroeder said. “We turned a lot of students away so we’re going to work next year to see if we could do two weeks or figure out a way logistically that we could get them all in. Because I hate turning down students.”
Schroeder said anyone who was turned away will have first crack at registering for the 2013 See Blue STEM Camp, which means there’s still hope for the 70 students who didn’t get to attend in 2012.
This year’s campers shared a common interest in the STEM fields and especially liked the amount of hands-on activities the camp offered. Quinn Andrews said she enjoyed building a spectrometer in astronomy and making a DC motor in her engineering class.
“Some of my classes in school are really just books and I like it more when we get to do stuff like that,” she said.
The 2011 See Blue STEM camp impressed Brian Johnston so much he decided to come back in 2012.
“I came last year and it was a pretty interesting camp so I decided it would be a really fun thing to do again,” Brian said. “I enjoy the technology and science, and since I’m a kinetic learner, I do best with hands-on stuff.”
With a slate of challenging classes, a group of brilliant and passionate teachers, and a line-up of guest speakers meant to inspire the campers, Schroeder hopes the See Blue STEM Camp will help lay the foundation for the state’s next generation of innovators and thought leaders.
“As far as Kentucky goes, we need to bring in leaders and develop those leaders,” he said. “We can’t just give them the summer off to do that.”
See photo galleries from the engineering and LEGO robotics classes.
Watch a video with thoughts from the students on why they chose to come to camp.
Listen to a podcast in which Dr. Craig Schroeder talks about the See Blue STEM Camp.