Summer Camps Inspire Young Scientists

Image of girl with robot car

The College of Education’s Southern New Mexico Science Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) program sponsored 11 camps this past summer with support from NASA and the Johnson Space Center.

Several of the campus focused on robotics for students from 5th to 12th grades. At the 5th grade level, students participated in a We Do Robotics workshop, a basic introduction to robotics using a multidisciplinary curriculum that includes language, literacy, and design concepts. The program also taught principles of teamwork. During the weeklong camp, participants learned the basic concepts of robotics and built their own software-controlled robots. For many young investigators, the development of a robot they could control opened up a whole new career path in the field of robotics that they hadn’t previously considered obtainable.

At the 6th – 8th grade level, students used the LEGO-developed NXT robotics software to build robots and plan, test, and modify instructions to the robots using research of real-life robotic behaviors. The participants in the NXT workshop designed and built robots mimicking animals and insects. They learned how specific animal traits influence robotic design and gathered and analyzed data from touch and ultrasonic sensors that are part of the NXT kit.

High school students with two of more years experience working with NXT robotics were able to participate in the advanced camp, VEX Robotics. VEX is a subsidiary of Innovation First International. Using VEX components, students programmed their robots to respond to various challenges and to play fast-paced games. Both NXT and VEX offer opportunities for students to compete with their robots on a national scale.

Image of boys with rockets

In Rocket Camp, 6th – 8th grade students learned the physics of rocket flight and had the opportunity to build and launch rockets. On the final day of the camp, parents and family members were invited to observe a launch. Related to rocketry is the Scuba Diving camp, in which students receive training in underwater activities like those experienced by real astronauts. Underwater training in some ways replicates the weightlessness of space.

Other camps were especially designed to attract young girls to scientific and mathematical fields.

The camps earned kudos from the Las Cruces Sun News, which in an editorial praised the SEMAA program for attracting middle and high school students for high-tech careers that they might never have otherwise considered.

  • World Famous Neuroscientist Visits COENMSU’s SEMAA program also sponsored summer workshops for teachers.  Kenneth Wesson, renowned expert in the neuroscience of learning and methods for creating classrooms and learning environments that are “brain-considerate,” presented his research to 100 area educators.

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