One Giant Leap for Camper-kind

Posted on: July 23, 2018

YMCA campers think on, and off, their feet to solve projects at STEM Fair

BY JANE HAMMOMD EJHAMMOND@DAILYPRESS.COM

HAMPTON – Boat builder Melody Jones was pretty proud of her cargo ship on Thursday.

The bright red USS Caring, as she and her teammates dubbed it, bobbled up and down in the water as industry experts from the likes of Canon and NASA looked on.

The ship, made solely of duct tape, took on no water as metal nut after metal nut was loaded aboard it.

The adults asked the group inportant questions about its construction and purpose.

Of course a cargo ship like the Caring should travel down rivers slower rather than faster, Melody said, “so stuff doesn’t fall off.”

Melody was one of more than 1,300 summer campers from across more than a dozen Peninsula YMCA branches (from the Northern Neck to Isle of Wight County) who flooded the Virginia Air & Space Center Thursday for the YMCA’s fifth annual STEM Fair, focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

The boat challenge was a culmination of weeks of STEM-based projects held at each branch this summer. Younger grades were tasked with making one out of duct tape to hold a heavy load, while the upper grades had a few supplies, such as aluminum foil and cork, to design a barge to transport oysters from Lancaster County to Smithfield. For those who weren’t being judged as finalists in the challenges, there wa still plenty to do. Frintier, The Williamsburg Drone Club and Newport News Shipbuilding were among the many local groups that set up activities and informational stands around STEM concepts.

“So they get the opportunity not only to do activities and learn, but they’re interacting with people who are in career fields,” said Stacia Roeth, chief operating officer of the Peninsula YMCA. “So maybe it will spark some thought somewhere along the say down the road, that a camper says, ‘I want to be a scientist, (or) I want to be an engineer, (or) I want to design boats that are going to go down the river.’ This is a place where they can spark that thought.”

A big hit of the day was an exercise in physics thanks to Canon Virginia.

Campers used paper and other supplies to make small “rockets” that were launched using some PVC piping and plastic bottles.

They enthusiastically launched their vehicles by jumping atop the bottles and watching their paths.

Thomas Wheeless, a mechanical engineer, said he even noticed one camper testing her rocket five times on a smaller launchpad, noting that she would methodically compare those results against ones from the bigger bottle.

Allyson Goard, 7, also launched her rocket over and over again before playing with magnetic tiles to build new structures alongside Kynedi Barnes, 7.

They both said they learned about science, which “can be really difficult,” Kynedi said.

But it’s worth it, Allyson added.

“Learning about these planes and stuff,” she said, looking around the displays hanging in the center, “is really fun.”

Hammond can be reached by phone at 757-247-4951.

 

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