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Voinovich School engages regional youth in virtual STEM camp

August 18, 2020

From watersheds to renewable energy to smart technologies, regional youth recently learned about science, technology, engineering and math — or “STEM” — topics and careers during a free, four-day virtual camp on Aug. 3-6 offered by the Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

The camp engaged participants in live virtual presentations and discussions with University instructors. To recreate the activity component of an in-person camp in an online setting, registered campers were mailed boxes of materials to enable hands-on-learning. The boxes included items to support the daily lessons such as a watershed map, pH testing strips, supplies for a make-at-home solar oven, guidebooks, games and more.

The camp covered a range of topics over the four days, including:

  • Water, watersheds, water quality, sampling, stream biology and health
  • Energy, renewable energy, solar ovens, energy audits
  • Internet of Things, smart technologies, coding basics

“The virtual STEM camp provided an engaging and safe opportunity for camp participants to explore environmental science, technology and energy use at home,” Jen Bowman, Voinovich School director of environmental programs, said. “Campers were provided stream sampling tools and encouraged to explore streams in their backyard, neighborhood, and/or park.”

Information was shared with the campers through a data platform called “My Backyard Stream” on managed by the University. Participants also conducted a home energy audit, reflected on their personal energy use, and learned how computer programming is used to control drones and other smart devices.

On the final day of the program, participants were given the opportunity to share their own STEM-related activities and ideas on STEM careers of interest.

Additional presenters included Elkan Kim, senior IT project manager, and Dr. Gilbert Michaud, assistant professor of practice. Andreana Madera Martorell, environmental studies graduate student, also contributed.

Ohio University has sponsored in-person STEM camps for students grades 6-10 over the last two years. This year, the program continued online by adapting to safety precautions for COVID-19.

The free summer camp was funded by a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy PORTSfuture grant, the American Electric Power Foundation and Ohio University’s Voinovich School.

“We hope it shows we’re responsive to the new realities of remote learning while providing something constructive to promote learning during the summer that’s hands-on,” Stephanie Howe, associate director for human capital and operations at the Voinovich School, said. “We try to keep their interest in STEM careers for the future. The earlier we can encourage kids to think about career options, the more opportunities they will have post-graduation.”

Ohio University is looking to develop additional offerings that expand STEM learning in the coming months.