Norwalk STEM camp has 'good first year'

Cary Ashby • Jun 26, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Fun and messy was the theme for campers attending the “Summer STEM Bucket List” sessions at Norwalk High School.

“Every day they had food coloring on them,” said instructor Donnelle Orzech, who teaches third grade at Pleasant Elementary.

To end the week, her campers made lemonade and sold it to other other children at the stand they built and painted. They also made slime, launched bottle rockets and completed an egg-drop challenge.

Forty students who will be in third through fifth grade attended the STEM camp (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.)

“We should be able to grow it from here, based on the feedback from the parents,” Norwalk City Schools Superintendent George Fisk told the school board. “It was a good first year.”

Campers designed, built and tested toys that fly, spin and wobble in one session. In another, they blended math and science skills based on the classic children’s novel “Charlotte’s Web.”

Fisk said parents told him they were amazed the camp didn’t cost anything — it used Title IV federal grant money.

Tiffany O’Neil led a session called “Edible STEM.”

“Everything that we made could have been eaten,” said O’Neil, who teaches computers to district kindergartners through third-grade students. “I think they were all ready to eat all the food we made, but I hope they took some of the science with them.”

Campers made solar ovens using pizza boxes donated by Domino’s and placed them on the front sidewalk. 

“We cut a panel at the top and covered it with aluminum foil. The window that we have we covered with saran wrap. The aluminum foil will reflect the heat into the box. The saran wrap will hold the heat inside of the box and cook (whatever is) inside. They painted the bottom of the box to absorb the heat,” O’Neil added.

Campers used thermometers to track the temperature inside their solar ovens, and their food sat on glass plates. They also estimated the boxes might get as hot as 150 degrees if they left them outside for about an hour.

Donald Huggins decided to make toast inside his solar oven while many other campers made S’mores. The 9-year-old son of Vincent and Elizabeth estimated it would take 20 minutes to an hour to make toast.

“On a day like today, it’s not too too hot and I think one of ours got a little over 100 degrees inside the box, which is pretty cool,” O’Neil said.

“But they haven’t been very good at keeping the boxes closed,” O’Neil said, laughing. “Yeah, ‘cuz as soon as they open it, it lets that heat out. But for a day like today, it’s not too hot out; 150 (degrees) is pretty good.”

Scott Spettle, who teaches the Maker Space class at Main Street School, was the instructor for the session in which campers learned to build and launch a model rocket. He provides technology training for the district.

“The students in all the sessions are engaged and having fun while learning something new. I have had a few of the students in my group already talk about wanting to come back again next summer,” Spettle said in updating the school board.

Spettle’s campers launched their rockets Friday morning outside of the NHS softball field.

“It’s weird how the rockets launch with just a little engine in it,” said Spettle’s 8-year-old son Henry.

Parachutes packed inside each of the cardboard rockets helped them land, but one didn’t do what it was supposed to do.

“One completely fell out,” said the son of Scott and Kellie, who was happy with the way his rocket performed. “Some went higher than others.” 

Campers used a 3D printer at NHS to create the nose cones. Henry Spettle decided to make his rounded.

“It made it slower and it didn’t go as high,” he said.

Jett Scheid made his nose cone long and very pointed.

“It probably made it go higher, so it would go faster also. … I expected it to go lower, so it actually went higher than I expected,” said Ken and Beth’s son, who used a 3-D printer for the first time during camp. “It was actually really cool.” 

Since the campers had time, they used the printer to make key chains with their names. 

“One 3-D printer had one in it and it took an hour. And then other ones had four and it took three hours,” Scheid said.

Orzech’s campers “hatched dinosaurs” but putting toy dinosaurs in water-filled balloons, which also contained food dye. The balloons went in the freezer over night.

“We broke them open the next day,” said Lindy Winkleman, the daughter of Chad and Amy.

The 9-year-old girl was surprised at the hollow parts around the frozen dinosaur.

“I thought they would freeze all the way,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be hollow.”

Of the possible changes for next summer, Fisk said students could go through a cycle of the sessions, instead of just being enrolled in one for the entire week. 

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