DADE CITY —Just a few weeks into summer vacation, Pasco Middle School student Jade Neal, 14, was back at school, delving into a challenging STEM activity on force in motion, as the theme to Mission Impossible played in the background.
The assignment? Collaborate with science partner Tyler Hitchner, 12, to design and create a miniature zip line that could ferry a small GoPro Camera from the height of a chair onto a paper island on the floor that was surrounded by a moat of imaginary quicksand. Among the materials they could use — string, paper clips, masking tape, tongue depressors, measuring tape, a ruler, pipe cleaners, plastic straws as well as the shoe box that held those materials.
The end game for these "Super Hero Scientists" was to retrieve sensitive documents that had been stolen by the evil agents of HYDRA.
"We have the design process down. We just have to test it," Jade said with a wide grin. "This is a lot better than sitting around the house all day being bored. I've always been a science kid. Anything science, I'm into it."
As for Tyler, a student at R.B. Stewart Middle School in Zephyrhills, he's typically into football. But after participating in some engaging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities during the previous school year, he said, "Science is growing on me. It's fun."
Jade and Tyler were among about 25 students attending a free STEMagination Camp held June 18-21 at Pasco Middle School. The camp, held from over 4 half-days, was one of four sessions offered to middle school students attending Title 1 schools throughout the county. Other schools hosting the sessions were Bayonet Point Middle in New Port Richey, Centennial Middle in Dade City and Hudson Middle in Hudson.
For students, the camps offered the opportunity to get some extended hands-on experience with GoPro technology and Sphero Robot programming. Students also served as beta testers for a new CrossBraining software app that helps students create a 45-second narrated video of their learning process.
The STEM activities were meant to build up one another and tie into Newton's three laws of motion, said Alice Novak, a Science Teacher at Pasco Middle. She helped teach the curriculum along with Nora Walters, a language arts teacher at Stewart Middle, and Nikki Sundsmo, a Title 1 STEM coach for Pasco County Schools.
The curriculum was designed to meet Florida standards and be engaging in a summer camp kind of way, Sundsmo said, adding that while students get familiar with GoPro, iPad and wifi technology, they also learn the art of collaboration and trouble shooting.
"It's student driven," Sundsmo said. "They come up with a concept, sketch it, test it, fix it, and record it so when they are done they have an actual artifact of what they have learned that they can share with others."
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"This is a way to teach them something about the design process and different technology," she said. "They're making friends and learning a lot. I think that's a great kickoff to their summer."
While students were getting a step-up on technology, there's a dual benefit, Novak said. "I think its a really great opportunity as a teacher to get familiar with the technology and think about ways to use in our yearly curriculum and this makes science exciting."
Contact Michele Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MicheleMiller52.