Happy campers (with eager young minds)

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On September 14, 2007

Jennifer Babb was introduced to science and technology at UMR in 2005 when she attended Summer Solutions Camp for girls who are freshmen and sophomores in high school. Babb then attended the Jackling Introduction to Engineering camp the following year. During one of those visits to campus, she heard about a new UMR camp that sounded intriguing. “A bunch of my friends were really jealous when they found out I was going to Explosives Camp this year,” says Babb, now 17, of St. Louis.

Her friends might have been jealous, but Babb confesses her mother was downright nervous after hearing about things like detonators and dynamite. “My mom worries, but she realizes it’s fun and exciting and you learn new things,” says Babb, who plans to attend UMR after she graduates from Westminister Christian Academy in 2008.

Doing and learning are what all of the summer camps have in common. UMR now offers more than 10 academic-oriented camps for students ages 6 to 19. This year, Camp Invention for students in grades one through five was offered for the first time. Many of the other camps are for high school students who will soon be starting their college careers. Summer Solutions and It’s a Girl Thing are geared specifically toward getting more girls interested in technology.

According to Cecilia Elmore, EMgt’86, director of the UMR Women’s Leadership Institute, it is a misconception that young women do not enter fields associated with math and science because they are underachievers in those disciplines. “Studies show that women are more likely to participate in engineering and science if they are able to see that their work is directly helping others,” Elmore says.

Each spring break, Elmore and her husband Curt Elmore, GeoE’86, an associate professor in geological engineering, take students enrolled in special UMR classes to Guatemala to help locals improve their water quality. This summer, junior high girls attending the It’s a Girl Thing camp watched a video presentation about UMR efforts in Guatemala, where the infant mortality rate is sky high (29.77 deaths for every 1,000 live births, compared to 6.37 in the United States). The campers learned about the dangers associated with contaminated water and saw what E. coli looks like in a Petri dish. Then they learned about ways to prevent or filter pollution.

The hope is that some of these girls, based in part on their experiences at summer camp, will eventually enroll at UMR and pursue careers in science or engineering. Maybe one day they will travel to Guatemala with the Elmores. Or maybe they will join UMR’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a group of students that travels to Central and South America each year to build latrines, monitor water quality and aid communities with earthquake preparedness.

All of the girls, boys and young adults who attend the summer camps are potentially future Miners, future scientists or future engineers. But not all of UMR’s 2007 campers were focused on the future or even worried about making a difference. They’ll have plenty of time to think about that stuff later. For now, they were too busy blowing stuff up, designing robots, launching rockets and imagining life on other planets.

The following camps were among those offered this past summer at UMR:

  • Aerospace Camp. Students between ages 10 and 12 launch rockets and experience flight simulations. Camp Invention. Elementary school students explore Planet Zak, take apart electronic devices and learn about the physics of amusement park rides (story on page 6).
  • Computer Highly Interactive Programming (C.H.I.P.) Camp. High school juniors and seniors complete their own computing projects.
  • Explosives Camp. High school juniors and seniors from around the country learn about mining explosives, detonators, fireworks and more (story on page 11).
  • Hit the Ground Running. Recent high school graduates planning to attend UMR get a head start by participating in college writing, chemistry and mathematics lectures led by UMR educators.
  • It’s a Girl Thing. Junior high girls get a hands-on introduction to exciting science and engineering projects (story on page 8).
  • Jackling Introduction to Engineering. High school juniors and seniors pick one of three sessions in which they learn about several different fields of engineering.
  • Minority Introduction to Engineering. High school juniors and seniors learn about engineering, mathematics, science and technology.
  • Nuclear Engineering Camp. High school juniors and seniors get an introduction to the field of nuclear engineering and learn about the technical aspects of operating a nuclear reactor.
  • Robotics Camp. Students between the ages of 11 and 14 practice the basic principles of robotics, including electronics, sensors and motor controls.
  • Summer Solutions Camp. Females who are freshmen and sophomores in high school experience college life, meet college students and professors, and learn more about science, technology and engineering.

Most of the camps are approximately one week long and take place in June or July. Students attending overnight camps stay in UMR residence halls. For more information, including camp fees, contact the UMR department of distance and continuing education at 573-341-6576 or visit summer.mst.edu.

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On September 14, 2007. Posted in Fall 2007, Features