GCU STEM camps balance youths’ summer equation
Story and photos by Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
They just might be the most exciting words in chemistry: “We’re going to light something.”
In turn, you could see the eyes light up in the nearly two dozen sixth through ninth graders gathered in the third-floor laboratory of the Natural Sciences Building.
It was where Grand Canyon University senior biology major Cherise Magsanide, dressed in her white lab coat, took center stage Tuesday morning as part of the Biovision Day Camp. Her mission, and the mission of others helming the camp: teach students the fundamentals of bioscience and how it relates to innovation and discovery in the health care industry.
Biovision is part of a quartet of Thunder Vision STEM Day Camps (the others are Cybervision, Robovision and Ecovision) offered this week by GCU’s K12 Educational Development.
Magsanide asked the students: “Does anyone here know what wavelengths are?” When a hush fell over the lab, she told them, “So today, we’re going to be playing with the color spectrum.”
To do so, they used spectroscopes to look at the sunlight streaming through the room. Then they heard those all-important words: “We’re going to light something.”
The campers, who were on a tour of the Engineering and Natural Sciences buildings where much of GCU’s science magic happens, grabbed their designated spectroscope, pointed the instruments toward the window, then gandered through it.
What they saw: a rainbow of color captured in the spectroscope, a tool that splits light into the individual wavelengths that comprise it.
Then, as promised, Magsanide lit the wick atop a burner, which in turn ignited certain elements, each of which produced their own unique light spectra. Students looked specifically at the wavelengths of copper chloride and potassium iodide.
Again, some mental – and a few verbal – “oohs” and “ahhs.”
“So much of science is the observation part,” Cori Araza, Director of STEM Outreach and Program Development, said to the students. “As Edison said, ‘I didn’t fail; it just took about 150 times before it actually worked,’” a reference to Edison’s quote, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
The light wavelength exercise was just one of the activities at the one-day Biovision camp. An estimated 520 students are expected to attend the Thunder Vision camps, which ends today.
“We even have kids from the Mogollon Rim,” said Carol Lippert, Executive Director of K12 Outreach and Education Program Development.
The campers in this tour group also wandered into one lab where they viewed a neat row of MakerBot 3D printers.
“At the end of the semester, you get to 3D print your own race car,” tour guide and GCU biomedical engineering senior Maddie Strong said.
They also fired up their frontal lobes in the “How to Talk to A Brain” session.
Campers culled from their science knowledge to answer the questions that Eva Lippert, a GCU junior studying elementary and special education, was throwing at them: “What is a neuron?” “How are neurons like an internet cable?” And, “Can you tell me the parts of the brain?”
When they ran out of answers, the GCU session leaders gave a hint: “cera …” with a pause.
“Ceratops!” piped up one young student, though “cerebellum” was what session facilitators were looking for.
Students then played the Neuron Game.
Eleven campers stood in a line and held hands. They stood back-to-back against another line of 11 students holding hands. When the person at the end of the line feels a shoulder tap, he squeezes the hand of the person next to him, then the next person does the same, and so on, until the last hand is squeezed.
The person at the end of the line then grabs a marker to signal that he or she received the final squeeze. Whichever team’s signal makes it to the end of the line first wins the round.
The activity demonstrated how neurons transmit nerve impulses from one cell to another.
“We’re the better neurons!” yelled one camper at the end of the game.
Biovision students also tackled the “What’s in Your Blood?” activity, “Have a Heart” and “Bone Challenge.”
Manny Noriega, a teacher with the Miami Unified School District in Miami, Arizona, brought 13 GEAR UP students with him to the camp. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The grant program is designed to significantly increase the number of students from low-income communities who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
“We take the kids and introduce them to different things they can do as occupations,” said Noriega. “We take different college tours and things like this science camp.”
Dane Strong, an eighth grader at Biltmore Preparatory Academy, was busy building a neuron out of pipe cleaners and beads during the “How to Talk to a Brain” session.
“I really like science and engineering and technology. It’s right up my alley. Strong said. “Crafts, though, aren’t.”
Ninth grader Phoebe Sanders said she doesn’t know if she might want to be a scientist when she grows up, “But I saw this as an opportunity over the summer to learn, and I thought the classes they had here were interesting.”
Eva Lippert said her older brother “would have died” to go to a science camp when they were growing up together. Back then, academic camps just weren’t offered, at least not as much as athletic camps or traditional outdoor recreation camps.
“These kids are so smart and so fun to work with. … They’re not going to be able to go into a cadaver lab in (junior high or high) school like at these GCU camps,” she said.
“I love them (the Thunder Vision camps) because they’re so specialized for what kids nowadays go to camp for. … When I was a kid, I did not appreciate it (going to camp). But with these kids – this is their passion”
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at email@example.com or at 602-639-7901.
GCU Today: GCU engineering event was no small potatoes
GCU Today: DNA gets A-OK from GCU STEM campers