Summer camps help engage students in science, technology fields

June 14, 2013

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Summer at MSTC help engage students in science, technology fields” — GRAND RAPIDS — Fresh off the end of the school year, some students in central Wisconsin just couldn’t stop themselves from taking an opportunity to learn.

Jacob Millner and Jake Zeman, both students at the Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School, said their passion for engineering is what led them to participate in the VEX Robotics Camp this week at Mid-State Technical College’s Wisconsin Rapids campus. The three-day event was one of two such camps the college held throughout the week for middle- and high-school students.

“I was in the WRAMS Engineering Club, so I was like, ‘Oh, well, this kind of goes with engineering, so I might as well try it,’” said Zeman, 12, of Wisconsin Rapids. “I also had some previous experience with (building) robots.”

The Race Engineering Camp provided high school students the opportunity to build their own race cars. Participants of both activities got the chance to exhibit their creations Thursday afternoon as part of end-of-camp competitions.

Aidan Cramer and Nick Hackman, both students at Washington Elementary School in Marshfield, won first place during the VEX Robotics competition.

“I thought that we were going to lose on the first challenge, so I was shocked when we made it, and I just kept my spirits up,” said Cramer, 11, of Marshfield. “If you like engineering, building stuff, then I would recommend it.”

With state and local work force development leaders seeing an increase in the need for science and technical jobs, organizers said this week’s events provided industry leaders with an opportunity to get the attention of students at an earlier age, said Richard Breen, who helped organize the camp.

“In the area, (business leaders) have been telling us … that they need more qualified people in the areas of science, technology and mathematics,” Breen said, noting many students don’t realize they need upper-level mathematics classes in order to become engineers. By getting them engaged in various aspects of the field and helping them understand the education and training that’s required at an earlier age, hopefully they will be able to better prepare, he said.

“It’s student-motivation based, not just opening up their minds and dumping it inside,” Breen said.

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