“The students have been very excited to attend,” Sharon Wisniewski, CAC’s STEM coordinator, said. “I had one student tell me that he’d rather be doing this than wasting his time on video games.”
In the coming weeks, CAC’s STEM program will take campers on an educational thrill ride through the worlds of biology and robotics. This week, students have been immersed in chemistry, where experiments that result in chemical reactions and explosions have been the featured attraction.
“We get to explode stuff,” Sara Gomez said. “If I didn’t have this camp, I’d be bored at home and would be forced to do housework.”
“I’d be sleeping right now, if not for this camp,” Eric Miller from Vista Grande High School said. “I really like finding how chemicals react with each other and all the explosions we get to do.”
On Monday, June 11, students were given the opportunity to mix chemicals to safely create and light their own fireworks, minus the “bang” since, as Diane Beecroft, CAC professor of chemistry told the campers, their colorful explosives were not contained.
Groups of two to three students measured and mixed their various concoctions and all campers gathered in the lab and watched as each mixture was safely lit, producing colors such as red, white and blue, as well as a sparkling effect. In the end, the campers had a front-row seat to an early Fourth of July celebration.
When the week is done, and through the instruction of Beecroft and Chemistry Preceptor Tammy Janisko, campers will have learned how to make their own silver, how to collapse aluminum cans using only heat and cold water, and how to mold plastic.
Additionally, the days have ended with guest speakers such as CAC and NASA’s Wayne Pryor who discuss their STEM careers.
“Parents already have told us that their children now want to pursue associate of science degrees,” Charlene Stapleton, STEM advisor at CAC, stated. “One mom was really excited because their child didn’t really have any direction for where he was going, and now he knows.”
During the second week of camp that begins June 18, campers will transition into the study of biology where, among other things, they will get to perform genetic engineering where they will take a “glow-in-the-dark” gene from a jellyfish and insert it into bacteria so that the bacteria glows in the dark.
Campers also will experience a crime scene lab and experiment with fingerprint, hair follicle and DNA analyses.
“The campers will be able to figure out who the suspect is and present their argument and evidence in court,” Crystal McKenna, biology preceptor at CAC, explained.
The STEM program at CAC is an innovative college enrichment curriculum for high school and college-aged students in Pinal County.
Its goal is to encourage and increase the presence of historically underrepresented groups in the career fields of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as other licensed professions.
Its philosophy places students at the center of the learning process which includes advising and counseling students on taking responsibility for their own learning, as well as connecting abstract knowledge to everyday experiences.