Inaugural Robotics Camp to Inspire Next Generation of STEM Leaders

Experiential and inquiry-based models of learning are emphasized and designed to trigger students’ curiosity at USFSP College of Education first STEM Robotics Summer Camp.

Experiential and inquiry-based models of learning are emphasized and designed to trigger students’ curiosity at USFSP College of Education first STEM Robotics Summer Camp.

(May 24, 2018) – The USF St. Petersburg College of Education is hosting its first annual STEM Robotics Summer Camp for local fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders this June. The camp is designed to inspire young students while promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills through diverse activities in computer science, engineering, robotics and applied math—as well as a bit of marine science.

“The College of Education prides itself on offering the top-level of teaching and learning to our community,” College of Education Dean Allyson Watson said. “This is one way we are showing how important the community is to us and how we can truly impact our students in the critical grades of fifth through eighth.”

Experiential and inquiry-based models of learning are emphasized and designed to trigger students’ curiosity. That means campers won’t be sitting at desks following step-by-step instructions. Instead, they’ll be given a series of challenges—like building a robot that can complete a household chore, creating an operational – albeit small – roller coaster or making ice cream. Then they’ll take the lead.

“Campers will have to decide what questions to ask and how they want to meet the challenge. Then they’ll plan, create, build and go back and improve upon what they’ve done,” Camp Director Dr. Sandra Vernon-Jackson explained. “It’s a constant cycle of asking, developing and improving. That’s the problem-solving process and also the engineering process.”

The goal, Watson said, is to not only prepare students to excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects in the upcoming year. But to also get them “so excited about learning that they can’t wait to get back to school and to make STEM so relevant they can’t help but see it in their everyday lives.”

During the week, campers will learn from faculty members from USFSP and the USF College of Marine Science, Pinellas County district teachers and experts from Microsoft and the Marine Exploration Center. They’ll work with university education and engineering students as well as local high schoolers skilled in robotics.

Taking advantage of USFSP’s waterfront setting, the camp will incorporate marine science themes into select activities. One day students may work on programming a robot or rocket, and the next they might consider how their creation would function in a saltwater environment. Campers will also step aboard the Research Vessel Weatherbird II on Bayboro Harbor to learn about the experiments scientists run there each day.

On the last day of camp, students will take part in a robotics competition that parents, community leaders and industry members are invited to attend. After the competition, local leaders working in STEM industries will speak with campers about their career pathways and how they got to be where they are.

“It’s important for the College of Education to be an integral part of the community as it relates to STEM development for students in our surrounding schools,” Watson said.

The camp’s curriculum was designed using VEX Robotics IQ materials intended for elementary, middle and high school students as well as the textbook STEM Lesson Essentials: Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

For more information on the camp, visit https://www.usfsp.edu/college-of-education/stem-camp/. And for more information about USFSP STEM education, check out this news story on a recent STEM Badge-A-Thon USFSP Professor David Rosengrant organized, through which university education majors trained local Girl Scouts in robotics.

THE DETAILS

Who: Open to rising 5th, 6th 7th and 8th grade students

When: Session I – June 18-22, Session II – June 25-29; each session is five days long, Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM

Where: University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Cost: $160 per student, 10% sibling discount; cost includes camp materials, all science lab activities, camp t-shirt, and USFSP pull-string backpack. Campers should bring a bagged lunch each day.