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BYU launches STEM camp for high school students

Youth from around the world came to BYU to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math.

STEM camp 1

High school students recently participated in the first-ever five-day summer camp at BYU focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Heather Patterson, program administrator for BYU Conferences and Workshops, was inspired to organize STEM Camp in response to the popularity of Chip Camp, a day camp run by the BYU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for middle school students.

“There's never been a full-week overnight camp experience for high schoolers, but we've had people asking about it,” Patterson said. “We just built it from the ground up.”

Patterson’s team worked closely with Adam Barlow, a high school robotics teacher who was selected to be the camp director. In its first year, STEM Camp drew 58 attendees from all over the world.

“We have people from Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica and Hawaii and West Virginia,” Patterson said.

“The students have been able to make really cool connections with professors … and just get to explore a wide variety of STEM subjects,” Barlow added.

BYU faculty led participants in a variety of hands-on activities, including cryptography, LED light programming, DNA purification, robot engineering, drone flying, and a geology hike. Computer engineering professor Scott Lloyd and a team of BYU students facilitated an especially popular project in which participants assembled, soldered, and programmed a video game controller.

“They had QR codes so they could bring up the documentation on their smartphones, so that way next to their soldering stations, they could have their cellphone next to them, and then they had instructions about what to put next in the board,” Lloyd said. “All of that went really well.”

Many of the camp participants enjoyed the opportunity to try something new.

“I was like, ‘I have no idea how to do that. I've never done anything related to that,’” said Arabella Rabner, a high school student from Texas. “But by the end of that class, I had a working game controller. So it was cool to see, like, it's not as hard as you think it can be.”

Participants also enjoyed an expo with booths from STEM departments across BYU, as well as a tour of BYU’s research facilities, including an electron microscope lab and an anechoic or echoless chamber.

“I didn't ever do anything like this when I was younger, but it probably would have helped me figure out what kind of things I was interested in,” said BYU mechanical engineering student Tyler Campbell, one of the STEM Camp counselors. “A lot of this stuff, like coding and stuff like that, I didn't have any experience or exposure to until college-level classes, so it's cool that they're getting that exposure.”

For participants like Rabner, STEM Camp provided inspiration to reach for the stars.

“This camp has helped me realize that I probably want to go into mechanical or electrical engineering so that I could build rovers to go onto Mars,” Rabner said. “It's sort of helped me narrow down what I'm good at and what I like to do.”