VALPARAISO | Ashley Young inserted the strand of plastic into the 3D printing pen. She carefully moved the pen back and forth, attempting to make a 3D flower. Young, 12, said she enjoyed the 3D activity and much more at the first Makers STEAM Camp for Girls at Ben Franklin Middle School.
Fifteen incoming sixth graders participated in the STEAM camp, which is organized by Valparaiso Community Schools and geared toward students interested in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. During the week-long camp, participants visited Purdue University North Central and Valparaiso University where they learned about science and engineering, respectively. They also talked with an engineer, learned about circuits, created their own LED flashlight, and worked with Edison, an educational robot.
Erin Utesch, principal of Flint Lake Elementary School, said there are three main points of the camp: all girls, a STEAM focus, and a career focus.
“When you are career-minded and thinking about what you want to do when you grow up, then all of your learning has a purpose,” she said.
Olga Granat, instructional technology and innovation specialist for Valparaiso Community Schools, said the camp gives students the opportunity to have fun before they return to school.
“We both saw a big need as girls went from elementary to middle school where they either start losing interest in math or science or they just don’t feel like it’s cool,” she said.
A $4,000 grant was provided from Ready NWI to cover the costs of the camp. After participating in the school corporation’s Scratch Day, Sandra Alvarez, senior associate for Ready NWI, sought to offer funding for the summer camp. Scratch is a computer programming language created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Alvarez said the camp allows students to learn different skills during the day and in turn share the information with their parents at home.
“Something magical is happening here,” she said.
Julie Lauck, assistant superintendent for Valparaiso Community Schools, visited the camp to talk with students and instructors on Thursday.
Lauck said the camp demonstrates that educators are willing to give their time and energy to help students.
“It seems natural for leadership to support that effort,” she said.
Juliana Battista, 11, decided to participate in the STEAM camp, because she thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about science. Battista said she particularly enjoyed visiting a lab where she looked through a microscope and learned about different cells.
After all, Battista said she wants to become a microbiologist.
According to Young, participating in the STEAM camp is a once in a lifetime experience.
“It’s amazing,” she said.