SIUE Odyssey science camp sparks excitement for STEM among young people

Through a series of eventful experiences in building, exploring, and studying the dynamics of scientific inventions, participants in the Odyssey Science Camp at Southern Illinois University’s Edwardsville STEM Center make the experience first-hand the excitement of science during a two-week session in July.

“The goal of Camp Odyssey is to engage students in hands-on science learning that captures their imaginations and inspires them to pursue further STEM,” said Emily Wonnacott-Stanley, SIUE STEM Center Program Coordinator. . “The SIUE Center for STEM Research, Education and Outreach is running a camp using equipment from our lending library and the expertise of our staff. We engage campers at a younger age, when they are most likely to try new activities and find something they enjoy doing. For example, our Odyssey 5 campers (grades 6-7) experience different robotic platforms, which is a great precursor to coding, building, and engineering. Our Odyssey 3 group (grades 4-5) study the forms of nature and architecture, including a visit to Fuller Dome.

Topics and activities at Odyssey Science Camp include introduction to science principles, developing math skills through games, investigating “crime scenes”, building and programming robots, renewable energies and the launch of model rockets.

Madeline Feldman, a seventh-grade student from Edwardsville, is a loyal participant in Odyssey Science Camp. “Every year at camp is different with new activities at every level. My group works with Dash and Dot robots,” Feldman said.

Aspiring STEM professional Violet Cruse, a seventh-grader from Granite City, most values ​​“the creativity of being able to design whatever you might imagine.”

“We’re working on making miniature robots,” Cruse said. “We coded robots with Blockly and Wonder. I also like the fact that we have recess time and explore the campus. »

Gabriel Williams is a sixth grade student from Edwardsville. He signed up for the program because of his love for robots.

“Building and programming is hard, but it gets easier once you get into it, especially around like-minded people,” Williams said.

“I love what the STEM Center has done through this camp because it not only allows kids to satisfy their curiosity about STEM fields, but also gives them access to resources to foster that curiosity,” the volunteer said. from Camp Tyra Gipson, a member of Polytechnic Puzzle Pieces, a local First Robotics team.

A highlight for Odyssey 1 campers (grades 2-3) included world adventures through virtual reality goggles.

“It was basically a different dimension,” said Caroline Robberson, a third-grade student from Edwardsville. “It sounds realistic, but it’s not the real world. I went to the jungle. I went to London. And, I went to Central Park. It was cool, because I felt like I was floating.

Not only do students learn from STEM experts, but they also learn from each other by sharing ideas and real-life experiences that add value to Odyssey Science Camp programming.

“I gave a presentation on alopecia areata, a situation where you don’t have hair on your body,” said Robberson, who shared her personal journey with the autoimmune disease with her classmates. “I wanted to tell my friends, so they know more and respect me like they respect other people’s hair. Alopecia areata is very rare.

Another third-year student, Layne Harr, of Glen Carbon, has a family history of attending camp, noting that her mother and aunt also went there once.

“I heard it was super fun,” she said. “You can do tons of things. We’ve created little robot mice, built with Legos, tried virtual reality and more. I might want to be a scientist or a science teacher someday.

“We are fortunate to be in the midst of so many STEM talents on the SIUE campus,” Wonnacott-Stanley said. “We partner with the Chemistry and Biological Sciences departments, as well as SIUE Police, the School of Engineering, Fuller Dome and Campus Recreation. It has been wonderful for everyone involved to bring together our STEM enthusiasm for the benefit of young people. »

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