Monday, August 13, 2018

STEM-Based Summer Camps Are Sweeping the Nation This Season

For many students, summer is a time to get a break from the classroom and enjoy those carefree, hot days. But for others, this season can provide the perfect opportunity to focus on learning and very specific career goals. The 2017 American Camp Association Sites, Facilities, and Programs Report
found that more than 14,000 day and resident camps currently exist in the U.S., and a growing number of these camps are dedicated to STEM -- that's science, technology, engineering, and math --

These camps are run all over the United States, many of them hosted by local colleges, universities,
and museums. They cover a wide variety of interests, including 3-D printing, coding, robotics, computers, aeronautics, science experiments, product design, drones, and more. In today's world, drones are being used in everything from engineering, architecture, and construction to package delivery and photography. Having experience in STEM disciplines can allow these students to be admitted to related college programs and pursue in-demand careers. And since an engineer's salary can vary from $50,000 to $150,000 on average, attending a STEM-based camp could set these kids up for a good future.

Of course, a lot of kids attend these camps for fun, too. With varying lengths of sessions (some ranging anywhere from a week to six weeks, depending on the program), kids can get a taste of technology or can totally immerse themselves in creating bots or experimenting in the realm of physics. Some camps are actually free due to state and federal funding, while others require a cost for participation.

But no matter why students enroll -- and they are, in droves -- it could mean big things for the future. Verizon reports that women are still underrepresented in STEM careers, as 86% of engineers and 74% of computer professionals are male. The percentage of women in STEM careers actually hasn't improved since 2001. And while many historically black college and university engineering schools have some of the best STEM summer programs across the nation, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics reported last year that people of color -- specifically, those who are black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaska Native -- are underrepresented in these fields, as well. That's why many camps are geared towards getting young girls and youths of color involved from an early age.

In a world that's increasingly reliant on technology, we're going to need more people with STEM experience, explains Melinda Pollen, who is a robotics and STEM instructor in Wisconsin, to

"The world of work is changing dramatically and will require all of those skills -- not only those skills in science, technology, engineering, and math, but communication, teamwork, critical thinking, creativity, so they get to test all of those skills here at [these camps]," says Pollen.

Though it may be a bit too late in the summer to find open spots in STEM programs in your area, it never hurts to look (or plan ahead for next year). Some programs may also have classes available throughout the year to promote engagement in these areas of study for kids.


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