Thirty-plus budding scientists caught darters in area streams, made solar panels using circuit boards, performed chemistry-related food activities and more, while attending the inaugural MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences Summer STEM Camp.
Four of their five-days on campus wrapped up with team building and other fun things at the Campus Recreation Center.
With a theme of energy, the science, technology, engineering and math camp for rising high school sophomores and juniors took place July 11-15 in the Science and Voorhies Engineering Technology buildings and field trips to the Stones River. Students from Spring Hill, Brentwood, Nolensville, Mt. Juliet, Watertown and Rutherford County were part of the inaugural group.
MTSU faculty, staff and volunteers made the teenagers feel like they were in college, requiring lab coats, note-taking, goggles and final-day presentations.
“After biology (July 11 in the Stones River at Walter Hill Dam), we had engineering, where we made solar panels out of these little circuit boards and Wednesday was chemistry, where we looked at how the body processes food and what foods take the most energy to process,” said Ryan Chapman, 15, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a Central Magnet School student.
Chemistry professors Pat Patterson and Amy Phelps had their students prepare Omeals, which had been ordered online, in case they ever need to create food quickly on the run or while camping. Also available at retail stores, Omeals are self-heating, protein-packed and fully cooked (not freeze-dried) food packets that consumers can take anywhere.
Chapman said the field trip, where his group of 12 students donned waders for the river experience, “was interesting. They (organizers) said to bring a pair of socks, but I wasn’t expecting to get into the water like this. … Biology was more interesting since it was more hands-on.”
In the midst of the engineering technology segment, Vishnu Channagiri, 15, of Franklin, Tennessee, a Brentwood High sophomore, said “figuring out what the coding with the Arduino (circuit board) is pretty fun, especially the circuitry. It’s fun to see where the negatives and positives should go.” He also enjoys robotics at his school.
College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Greg Van Patten said the college was “very excited about the STEM camp. I presented the idea to all the department chairs in the college and we decided to start on a limited scale with just three departments (chemistry, biology and engineering technology) participating.
“The idea is to bring in high school students and give them some experiences in the laboratory or in the field that enhance their high school education — reinforce the standards they are being taught in the schools, but do it in a hands-on way. We’re also hoping this intensive experience with three different areas this year allows them to make connections between the activities they’ll be doing in those three areas and see common links in those STEM fields.”
Department Chairs Ken Currie (engineering technology) and Dennis Mullen (biology) led their respective sessions. Biology assistant professor Jessica Arbour teamed with Mullen on the river outings and electronics lab director Daniel Garrett assisted Currie.
The students took and Admissions-led tour July 15, took in the MTSU Physics and Astronomy Planetarium and ate in an MTSU dining facility.
To learn more about the 2023 CBAS summer STEM camp, call 615-898-2613.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)