Spin art, marble arcades, and a helmet from Top Gun? Who knew summer camp could be this fun? Recently, students at William B. Wade Elementary School enjoyed four days full of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities through the partnership and support of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD). The NAWCAD Strategic Education Office (SEO) reached out to the Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) STEM department to provide 50 CCPS elementary-school-aged students a scholarship to participate in Camp Invention this summer. The funding was provided by a grant from the Naval STEM Coordination Office at the Office of Naval Research. Wade was chosen as the first CCPS school to benefit from the scholarship for the summer camp.
The sign-up for the camp was first-come, first-served, and targeted toward, but not exclusive to, underrepresented students at the school. Rising third graders through rising sixth graders could sign up for the camp. Simone Young, coordinator for STEM for CCPS, Marissa Ackerman, community school coordinator, and William Miller, principal at the school, worked out the details of the camp to give students the best experience possible.
The camp consisted of three main modules that focused on various STEM-related activities for the students. Some of these activities included robotic aquatics and a marble arcade. “[The activities are] building up their capacity to be creators instead of just consumers,” Young said. Young and Ackerman were the coordinators of the camp. Camp counselors were student volunteers from La Plata High School. Camp leaders are all teachers at Wade.
Students at Alexandria Hott’s station mixed art and STEM to create spin art projects. Students around the room watched as Hott, a fifth-grade teacher at Wade, demonstrated the spin art project so that they could repeat it. A white square piece of paper spun with the help of a battery-operated platform. “You are going to get some paint, and slowly drop paint on the white paper,” she said. “You can change up your colors. It doesn’t have to be one color; you can be as creative as you want.” Students watched in amazement and were excited to try it out for themselves.
On Wednesday, Maria Thorpe, director of human systems engineering for the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), visited the camp and talked with the students about her role at the warfare center. Thorpe’s team designed a helmet-mask combination that was worn by Tom Cruise in the recent Top Gun “Maverick” movie. She gave the students an inside look into her job as an engineer.
Young and Ackerman said that they would love to do this again in the future for more schools in CCPS. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from the students and their parents,” Ackerman said. “The students are so engaged and excited to come back every day.”