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Second annual STEM summer camp teaches county freshmen

AS SEEN IN THE DAILY TRIBUNE NEWS: http://daily-tribune.com/newsx/item/5726-second-annual-stem-summer-camp-teaches-county-freshmen


As career options in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields continue to grow, so does the need for more training for students.

To help rising ninth-graders further develop their skills, Georgia Highlands College and Bartow County Schools hosted the second annual STEM summer camp last week on the college’s Cartersville campus and at the Bartow County College and Career Academy.

The 37 freshmen from Adairsville, Cass and Woodland high schools spent five days learning about everything from robotics and infectious diseases to astronomy and wetlands while also taking daily field trips to local businesses and other places to see STEM careers in action.

“Last year showed us that there is a need to expose kids in the community to STEM education and STEM careers before entering high school,” said camp organizer Greg Ford, academic dean and associate professor of natural science and physical education at GHC.

“This will assist them and their families in making decisions on classes to take in preparation for collegiate STEM programs. Last year also showed us that there is an interest among students, local school systems and local businesses to build a STEM pipeline which can lead to a well-trained 21st century workforce.”

Ford said the camp hosted 20 ninth-graders last year “so this year we decided to double our efforts.”

“We worked with the Bartow County College and Career Academy and the Bartow County School's middle school counselors to identify students who would be interested in this program,” he said. “We visited the schools and met with the students to present the goals for the program and answer questions. Each student and their family submitted an application. Because of our targeted and hands-on approach to recruiting, we were in a fortunate position to not turn away any child.”

The camp took an approach that “coupled classroom activities with real world experiences,” Ford said.

“On the first day, students learned programming using Arduino micro controller boards, followed by a visit to voestalpine Auto Body Parts Inc. manufacturer,” he said. “Day two included health care, infectious disease and robotics using Sphero robots, followed by a visit to Phoenix Air.”

The first two days took place at BCCCA, and activities were lead by volunteer faculty and staff from BCCCA and GHC.

Day 3 was “all about astronomy and mathematics,” with a visit to the Tellus Science Museum followed by a presentation from Georgia Youth Science and Technology Center in their portable star lab and a statistics project with the GHC math faculty, he said.

Chris Wilson, regional coordinator of Etowah GYSTC, immersed the campers in astronomy using an inflatable planetarium and Digital Starlab, according to a press release.

“He will teach them many basic physics principles that govern the laws of our universe,” the release said. “They will soar through the sky, identify constellations and watch how the change in our Earth's position affects the seasons. This technology will inspire our students to consider the wide array of STEM careers available in the exciting field of astronomy.”

The fourth day focused on energy, the environment and the importance of water quality as the students toured Georgia Power Plant Bowen, followed by a water-quality testing lab lead by the GHC science and mathematics faculty, Ford said.

“Finally, on Day 5, the students had the opportunity to visit the GHC Rome campus, Paris Lake and the wetlands area,” he said. “The students learned about the local ecosystem, wetland habitats and conservation with the science faculty. Students had the opportunity to perform a geological survey and identify inhabitants from microscopic organisms to larger residents, including fish and turtles.”

The last three days took place on GHC’s Cartersville and Rome campuses, led by volunteer faculty and staff from the science and math divisions.

Bartow County School System provided the buses.

“We also could not have done this without our bus driver, Riannon Gossett, who has been our driver for both years of the camp, through special request,” Ford said.

Each field trip seemed to offer something of interest to everyone, according to Ford.

“All of the host businesses have been very welcoming, and I think different students enjoyed each location for a different reason based on their interest,” he said. “What I can tell you is that Phoenix Air allowed us exclusive access to some of their new technology that has never been seen by anyone outside of the company. They have a big announcement in the coming days, and our students can say they knew about it first. What an honor and a pleasure this was for the students.”

Ford said the college, along with its education, civic and corporate partners, is “committed to providing students in our community with the opportunity to discover STEM careers through programs like this one.”

“Getting students immersed in a STEM environment early can increase student interest in STEM and send them on a path to become part of a well-trained 21st century workforce,” he said. “Also, we could not pull this off without our host of volunteers, families and donors that support these students in their growth and development.”

While the camp was free last year, organizers charged $25 this year to cover the cost of a light breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack for the campers. They also received donations from Georgia Power and Brain-Gen Biotech.

Page last updated: June 27, 2016