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SIUE Odyssey Science Camp Builds Excitement for STEM
Illinois Ag Connection - 08/09/2022

Through a series of eventful experiences in building, exploring and investigating the dynamics of scientific inventions, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville STEM Center Odyssey Science Camp participants are experiencing the excitement of science first hand during a two-week July session.

"The goal of Odyssey camp is to engage students in hands-on science learning that captures their imagination and makes them want to journey further into STEM," said SIUE STEM Center Program Coordinator Emily Wonnacott-Stanley. "The SIUE Center for STEM Research, Education and Outreach hosts camp using equipment from our lending library and the expertise of our staff. We are engaging campers at younger ages, when they are most likely to try new activities and find something they like to do. For example, our campers in Odyssey 5 (grades 6-7) are experimenting with different robotics platforms which is a great precursor to coding, building and engineering. Our Odyssey 3 group (grades 4-5) is looking at shapes in nature, and in architecture, including a visit to the Fuller Dome."

Odyssey Science Camp topics and activities include the introduction to scientific principles, building math skills through games, "crime scene" investigations, building and programming robots, renewable energy, and launching model rockets.

Madeline Feldman, a seventh-grade student from Edwardsville, is a faithful Odyssey Science Camp participant. "Every year at camp is different with new activities at each level. My group is working with Dash and Dot robots," said Feldman.

Aspiring STEM professional, Violet Cruse, a seventh-grade student from Granite City, most enjoys "the creativity in being able to engineer what you might imagine."

"We are working on making miniature robots," said Cruse. "We have coded robots with Blockly and Wonder. I also like that we get to have recreation time, and explore campus."

Gabriel Williams is a sixth-grade student from Edwardsville. He signed up for the program due to his love for robots.

"Building and programming is hard, but it gets easier once you get into it, especially around people of like-mind," said Williams.

"I love what the STEM Center has done through this camp, because it not only allows children to satisfy their curiosity about STEM fields, but also provides them access to resources to foster that curiosity," said camp volunteer Tyra Gipson, a member of the Polytechnic Puzzle Pieces, a local First Robotics team.

A highlight for Odyssey 1 campers (grades 2-3) included global adventures through virtual reality goggles.

"It was basically a different dimension," explained Caroline Robberson, a third-grade student from Edwardsville. "It looks realistic, but it's not the real world. I went to the jungle. I went to London. And, I went to Central Park. It was cool, because it felt like I was floating."

Not only are students learning from STEM experts, they are also learning from each other as they share ideas and real-life experiences that add value to the Odyssey Science Camp programming.

"I did a presentation about Alopecia areata, a situation where you have no hair on your body," said Robberson, who shared her personal journey with the autoimmune disorder with her classmates. "I wanted to tell my friends, so they would know more and respect me just like they respect other people's hair. Alopecia areata is very rare."

Lina Sykut, of Edwardsville, focuses intently on dissecting an owl pellet during camp. Fellow third grade student, Layne Harr, of Glen Carbon, has a family history of attending camp, noting her mom and aunt once went, too.

"I heard it was super fun," she said. "You get to do tons of things. We made little robot mice, built with Legos, tried virtual reality and more. I might want to be a scientist or a science teacher someday."

"We are lucky to be in the middle of ample STEM talent on SIUE's campus," Wonnacott-Stanley said. "We are partnering with the Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences, as well as SIUE Police, the School of Engineering, the Fuller Dome and Campus Recreation. It has been wonderful for all involved to bring our STEM enthusiasm together for the benefit of youth."

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