Summer Camps Expose Students to Engineering, Science


Camden Willis spent a week immersed in complicated concepts in aerodynamics, robotics and other engineering concepts.

And he’s only 8.

Camden attended Dalton State’s Engineering Explorers camp this summer, the newest STEM camp added to annual favorites such as Creek Critters, Stream Stomp and World of Science.

“It feels nice learning something new,” said Camden, of Dalton. “We spent time talking about aerodynamics, aerospace engineering, air physics, and we made paper airplanes. We made robots and learned how to program them. We’re doing a lot of projects and making new friends.”

Engineering Explorers camp was added this year to focus on engineering from all angles. Dr. Samantha Blair, associate professor of physics and astronomy, led the camp focusing on hands-on activities and small group collaboration.

“Camps like this, that expose students to a focused area of STEM, can help them explore all the different ways engineering is used in our lives and learn how their interests and talents could be used in the engineering field,” said Dr. Kim Hays, associate professor of biology who organizes the camps.

It was the first time Mindy Morales, 10, had been exposed to some of the topics in the camp.

“I like science,” she said. “At City Park School, we have a group for engineering that made me want to come here. My favorite part has been making bridges out of popsicle sticks. It fell, and we had to do it again and change direction.”

Dalton State hosts STEM camps each summer to expose area elementary- and middle-school aged children to new experiences.

“Our camps give students the opportunity for an enriching social and educational experience that may get them out of their comfort zone and foster new areas of interest,” Hays said. “Additionally, because the camps are at Dalton State, these students have the experience of being on campus, interacting with faculty and staff and beginning to foster their college-going identity. Research indicates the period between fifth and eighth grade is critical in a child’s decision to attend college.”

Girls in STEM and Girls in STEM Jr. camps are an important outreach because they specifically target females at an important age. Research shows even when grades are high in science and engineering-related subjects, interest drops sharply among girls, Hays said. In-school and out-of-school experiences are needed to help them engage in those fields.

Girls in STEM camps focused on science by participating in an egg-drop and pig dissection, studying bacteria and germs and learning about turtles utilizing the college’s Turtle Assurance Colony, which is geared toward saving endangered turtles.

Grants from Shaw Industries, Alliance for Innovation in Sustainability, North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation Operation Roundup and Engineered Floors provided 22 full scholarships to students who wouldn’t have been able to attend camps without the funding.

“We’re thankful for the grants and community support because they allow us to extend our reach to bring students in our community who may miss out on this experience otherwise,” Hays said.