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Summer Camp at Cypress Cove Spotlights Rockets, Robotics

Thirty-three youngsters from the Slidell area experienced hands-on science last week as they explored rockets and robotics at the first Cypress Cove Elementary “Curious Science Investigator (CSI) Rocket Camp.”

The school has been the site of other CSI Science Camps in past summers, but this year they added rockets and robotics. The new program ramps up the hands-on learning activities for an older group of youngsters from nine to 13 years of age. The CSI Science Camps serve a slightly younger crowd, from five to 11 years of age.

The rocket camp became a reality after a training workshop was presented by Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to educators during its “Summer of Innovation” program, a project which promotes STEM education during the summer. STEM is the abbreviation for a group of related subject areas: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A blend of summer camp fun and key STEM concepts, the new rocket camp program had the participants building and launching their own rockets, seeing first-hand demonstrations of rocket propulsion systems, and the skilled antics of the basketball-throwing robot built by the First Robotics Team 1912 from Northshore High School.

Several members of the award-winning high school robotics team were on hand to put their device through its paces and give the campers a chance to take part.

The long list of activities available during the robotics camp was put together by the high school robotics team members themselves, and they have proven invaluable in teaching the students how basic principles of math, science and engineering are applied in designing, building, and operating robots. Each year the robot builders are challenged to create a device which solves one or two specific problems. The goal this year was to scoop up basketballs and toss them 15 or 20 feet, much to the entertainment of the kids who tried to catch them.

A grant from the Stennis Space Center helped fund the activity. On the last day of the camp, students went to Stennis to visit the new Infinity Science Center, a new $30 million science and space educational center which opened April 12.

The Infinity center, just across the state line in Mississippi, is designed to challenge and educate visitors of all ages on the role of science and math in exploration across history. INFINITY also showcases Stennis Space Center’s part in the United States’ space programs, from the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo manned lunar landing program to space shuttles and beyond.

Among the camp instructors was Wendy Holladay, an electrical engineer who tests rockets for NASA at Stennis Space Center, who explained how rocket propulsion is created.

Charlene LoGiudice, the teacher who organized the science camps, said of the Northshore Robotics group, “These kids are extraordinary, and they should be recognized for their great service to the community and the younger students.”

The Northshore High group has won awards for its year-long efforts to involve the community and share the excitement of robotics and all the learning that goes into it. “A big part of their program is to reach out to the younger schools and teach them the importance of the STEM subject areas,” said Ms. Holladay. “They won the Regional Chairman’s awards three times for their volunteerism and efforts to promote interest in FIRST robotics.”

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” and the organization promotes robotics as a team building competition program. There are a number of FIRST competitions, from regional and state level to national and international levels.

One of the 1912 robotics team members from Northshore, Rachel Holladay, was a Dean's List Award Winner at the International FIRST competition this year.  “It’s the highest award given,” said Ms. Holladay. “There are only ten of the awards given out with thousands of students taking part.”

The camp included detailed explanations how the basketball robot worked, its power and computer systems, and ball handling mechanics, all presented by the high school students who had designed it and built it.

The camp participants really began soaking it up. “The parents tell me that when they come home every day, the kids can’t stop talking about it,” Ms. LoGiudice said.

Camp participants will be encouraged to join the First Lego League (FFL), a robotics program for 9 to 16 year olds which is designed to get elementary school children excited about science and technology as well as teach them employment and life skills. FLL can be used in a classroom setting but also involves teams composed of up to ten children with at least one adult coach.

“This is all an effort to get them interested in science while they are in the lower grades  and help them stay interested. They don’t have to wait until high school to get involved in a robotics team,” said Ms. Holladay.

At the CSI Science Camp beginning the week of June 4, special presentations will be given by the 1912 robotics team as well as the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab. Ms. LoGiudice said the camps are becoming more popular each year. “We are building quite a waiting list,” she said.

Photographs from the summer camp may be viewed by clicking here.


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