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High School Students Lead Future Engineers at STEM Camp

July 2022

Did you know you can make a thermometer with supplies in your medicine cabinet?

Elementary students at the second annual Wylie East High School STEM Camp learned how this week.

A little hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, water and food coloring is all they needed to make their very own thermometers. The students watched the colored water rise through a straw as they tested their thermometers in cold and warm water.

Students observe experiment.

Students watch as their homemade thermometers react to different temperatures of water.

STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Camp is run by WEHS engineering teachers with help from high school students in the Texas Association of Future Educators and the Robotics Club.

“Our high school students are the workforce behind the camp,” Lauren Plunk, WEHS engineering teacher, said. “As teachers, we help coordinate the administration and planning of the camp, but these students are what bring it to life.”

Elementary student sits in high schooler's lap.

High school students in the education career pathway, and members of TAFE, the Texas Association of Future Educators, assisted at the camp.

The STEM camp consists of different themes each day. From dinosaurs to meteorology to  robotics, the students receive hands-on experience with various projects. 

“Thursday is a balloon engineering unit, and Friday is a fun day that applies engineering solutions to problems in fairy tales,” Ms. Plunk said. “Our STEM campers get exposure into topics that they wouldn’t otherwise see until high school.”

Student attends camp.

Students rotated among different stations each day. Jovanni Soto creates electricity with a paper circuit. 

This is Jovanni Soto’s first time to attend STEM camp. He will be a third grader at George W. Bush Elementary this school year. 

“My favorite part of STEM camp is doing the activities,” Jovanni said. “I liked making the paper circuit with a battery and copper lines. When it worked, I was like ‘oh wow.’”

Forty-three elementary students attended the camp this year.

“We do different activities each year. We have lots of repeat customers,” Ms. Plunk said.

Boy plays with slime.

The slime making station was Nathan Lawrence’s favorite activity on July 12. 

Nathan Lawrence will be in first grade at Bush Elementary. His favorite activity at STEM camp was making slime.

“It was sticky and fun and I had the best counselor/teacher,” Nathan said.

The STEM camp isn’t only great exposure to working with children for the TAFE students, but it is also a great fundraiser for the Robotics and Engineering program. In only its second year, they raised enough funds to start a scholarship this year.

Boys wear 3D glasses.

Elementary students made 3D glasses and tested them out on virtual roller coasters.

Because of their efforts with STEM camp, last year at their state robotics competition, the team won a statewide Rookie Inspiration award for not only their outreach to younger students, but also for the funds they raise at the camp.

“Most teams have corporate sponsors, but our students raised their own money through camp,” Ms. Plunk said. “Our goal is to ‘hook’ students early and help them fall in love with STEM. We hope that our STEM camp alumni become engineering and robotics students. Research shows that these types of hand-on, project-based STEM activities are a major motivator for attracting students into STEM fields.”

Boys play with robot.

Robotics high school students assisted the younger students as they performed tasks with remote-controlled robots.